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Small Electric Car May Usher In Big Changes

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the clean-and-green dept.

Power 575

An anonymous reader sends us to a profile in CNNMoney.com on a Norwegian car company that is building a compact, plug-in electric car, the Think City, that will go on sale in Europe early next year. It could hit US markets in 2009. The CEO is working with Silicon Valley VCs and with Google, Tesla Motors, PG&E, and Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway. Plans are to sell the car only on the Web. No dealers, cheap manufacturing plants, and a battery pack that you lease, not buy — there's potential here for shaking up the auto industry the way Dell did PCs.

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575 comments

Big Changes, huh? (5, Insightful)

ExploHD (888637) | more than 6 years ago | (#20054583)

Are those "big changes" similar to Segway's "Big Changes"?

Re:Big Changes, huh? (1)

ameyer17 (935373) | more than 6 years ago | (#20054595)

If you mean lots of hype, but the product's a huge dud, sounds about right

Re:Big Changes, huh? (-1, Offtopic)

rolfc (842110) | more than 6 years ago | (#20054649)

The question is;

Does it run Linux?

Re:Big Changes, huh? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20054667)

People need automotive transportation. There are plenty of good economic reasons for a car like this, especially these days, and once someone Does It Right(TM) they'll be raking in the cash.

They don't need rolling gyroscope toys. There are few good economic applications of Segway; it's niche and its hype was, well, hype.

Re:Big Changes, huh? (1, Insightful)

Jhon (241832) | more than 6 years ago | (#20055033)

There are plenty of good economic reasons for a car like this, especially these days, and once someone Does It Right(TM) they'll be raking in the cash.


Yeah. Because people have 'economic reasons' to spend $13000+ for a very small 2-person car with a very limited range. And oh yeah! Did I mention this doesn't include the $35000 battery (which you wont own, but will pay a "fee" to use)?

Get the price point down below $5k, include the battery -- keep battery replacement costs below $1000 and then maybe... JUST maybe you'll see these for "neighborhood" going to the market type cars...

There's a reason they call these "green" -- because to use one, you need to get rid of all your money.

Re:Big Changes, huh? (1)

Chineseyes (691744) | more than 6 years ago | (#20055103)

Good economic reasons? I keep laughing when I hear people look to plug-in cars as being economical. I live in NY and the electricity costs are so high a plug-in car would be even MORE expensive than gas. Is there anyone else who lives in an area where this is the case or is it just my section of NY?

Re:Big Changes, huh? (1)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | more than 6 years ago | (#20055173)

You might make up the difference with better efficiency.

ummm, no. (3, Insightful)

Cutie Pi (588366) | more than 6 years ago | (#20054607)

Dell succeeded because they simplified and streamlined the computer buying process, and had good prices for PCs with reasonable features, compared to the rest of the market.

Other than possibly streamlining the car buying process, how does electric car company compare to Dell? It's not like people in the US are jumping to replace their SUVs and trucks with little electric cars.

Re:ummm, no. (0, Offtopic)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 6 years ago | (#20054735)

Dell was very aggressive in marketing on TV (like Gateway) and they both offered similiar products at the same prices. So why did Gateway fold while Dell succeeded?

Gateway didn't get the big business accounts, and Dell managed to steal much of the server/workstation business away from HP. The home desktop market was never really where the money is. Everyone was so competitive that there isn't much room for profit.

Re:ummm, no. (5, Insightful)

evilviper (135110) | more than 6 years ago | (#20054769)

It's not like people in the US are jumping to replace their SUVs and trucks with little electric cars.

Almost...

Several years ago, when gasoline prices doubled, I noticed a hell of a lot more old and small cars on the road... Cars that you could barely sell months before, seemed to be at every stop light. Their only possible positive attribute being their 35MPG fuel economy.

Hybrids have been a huge hit over the past couple years. So, given the lack of any fully electric cars, that's about as close an equivalent as you can get. I'd say people are at least clamoring for SOMETHING different. The rich aren't going to toss their leather-clad Hummers, and those that need trucks will continue to buy them, but I expect there's a whole lot of demand in the market for some, ANYTHING that doesn't use up lots of gasoline.

Re:ummm, no. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20054815)

it will not catch. it is expensive and electricity is here far too expensive

Re:ummm, no. (1)

gig (78408) | more than 6 years ago | (#20054923)

Before Dell, people weren't clamoring to buy PC's online either. You probably just don't remember.

Euhmm Yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20055039)

People in Europe will. Ever been to Pars or any other European city? Small lanes, small parking spaces, a lot of traffic. And best of all: current price for 1 liter 98oct gasoline is about 1.5 EUR, that is 2 USD.

I own a BMW convertible, awesome car to drive, but it uses 10L/100km.. I'd definitely buy a small electric car if it would be low cost. Just to make the smaller trips, less than 10km. That's what most people do here, most of us don't drive further than 20km a day.

Re:ummm, no. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20055107)

Yup, they will need little electric boats anyway when the first 1-2 levels of buildings will be underwater.

"Not a car" (3, Informative)

jonoton (804262) | more than 6 years ago | (#20054629)

In europe these vehicles are not classified as cars and as such do not have to subject themselves to the Euro NCAP.

Recently Top Gear magazine paid for one of these to be subject to the most basic testing - the results were pretty horrific.

Re:"Not a car" (1, Interesting)

rvw (755107) | more than 6 years ago | (#20054687)

In europe these vehicles are not classified as cars and as such do not have to subject themselves to the Euro NCAP.

Recently Top Gear magazine paid for one of these to be subject to the most basic testing - the results were pretty horrific.

If so, they are not allowed to go faster than 40 KM/H. That's the same speed as a moped or scooter may do. I prefer to be in one of those stupid electric vehicles than on a moped when in an accident. Furthermore, if this would really become big, security will improve fast, and city traffic speed will become slower.

Re:"Not a car" (2, Insightful)

clonmult (586283) | more than 6 years ago | (#20054817)

The car in question (G-Wiz) will reach a top speed of around 40mph. They say that "you will rarely hit such speeds around town". Sure, you're doing 30mph, car coming towards you is doing 30mph, closing speed of 60? You're almost guaranteed to die in a G-Wiz accident, but the other vehicle will hardly notice the bump.

Would you prefer to be in a vehicle that, in the event of an accident (head on at least) will keep you trapped, with crushed legs and chest, that can take an eternity to get out of, or a moped? Its a tough choice, but I'd go for the moped. Wouldn't look like so much of an idiot either.

Re:"Not a car" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20054993)

You're almost guaranteed to die in a G-Wiz accident, but the other vehicle will hardly notice the bump.
Why? Are you almost guaranteed to die in a Smart car accident? The answer is no, because with proper engineering one can actually build cars that are small, lightweight and safe. It's a pity that this information has reached neither the average american car buyer nor many of the US car industry executives and/or engineers, most of which still seem to think that a ladder frame [wikipedia.org] is a pretty neat idea.

Re:"Not a car" (1)

amorsen (7485) | more than 6 years ago | (#20055007)

Sure, you're doing 30mph, car coming towards you is doing 30mph, closing speed of 60?

If both cars are equal weight and the collision is straight-on, they will both experience a deceleration from 30mph to 0mph. Exactly the same as if they each hit a wall at 30mph.

You would not get back up (1)

aepervius (535155) | more than 6 years ago | (#20055075)

In your scenario with the moped your body would take the full blown 60kmh deceleration onto the pavement. or on the car front. At least with those small car a bit would be taken by the structure, even if it is minimal, it is certainly better than on a moped.

Re:"Not a car" (2, Informative)

arivanov (12034) | more than 6 years ago | (#20054731)

That may change by next year. The entire quadricycle loophole may be removed. The horrific results of the test have put the wheels of the Eurocracy in motion. It may take a while for them to start moving, but it is nearly impossible to stop them once they do.

The reason for the horrific tests results for the Wizz was a horrible design. It is not something that is specific to electric cars in particular. The pseudoengeneers from one well known country who designed the Wizz have built it around the battery. The battery neatly slots under the seats and carries most of the kinetic energy with it. From there on the car shell cannot sustain structural integrity in the crash. This is broken by design. It is also trivial to solve by making the battery and/or drive train free floating in a manner similar to the one used in modern car designs. In that case in the event of the crash it detaches itself and the chassis "climbs" on top of it. As a result it no longer needs to absorb all the kinetic energy carried in it.

The consumer has generally wizened up and if a car that has publically failed safety tests it is most likely going to see abissmal sales even if selling it is still legal due to a loophole in the law.

wizened up? (0, Offtopic)

airdrummer (547536) | more than 6 years ago | (#20055063)

ah, like embiggened;-) english is great, ainnit:-)

ah, loopholes... (1)

airdrummer (547536) | more than 6 years ago | (#20055005)

as i recall, a loophole allowed pickups & suvs to escape cafe regs, directly leading to their boom in popularity...can't wait 2 c the unintended consequences of this 1;-)

otoh, leasing may b the solution to the battery-life problem.

Strawman argument. (5, Informative)

nietsch (112711) | more than 6 years ago | (#20055037)

these vehicles are not the same as the vehicle that the article is about. It is not about to go on sale this year or the next. There is nothing that you can order yet, so there is nothing you can crash test. The test was with a totally different vehicle. If one SUV did bad in a crash test (like killing some bystanding dummies that were not even in the test), does that make all SUVs bad? (well OK, SUV are still bad, but for other reasons).
Some other poster pointed out your strawman is called g-wiz(made in India), which is a different vehicle ,made in different factory. Or are all electric vehicles the same?

Expect li-ion prices to go up (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 6 years ago | (#20054641)

While I am a big fan of the electric cars, I think that we can expect prices on the batteries to go up in the next year or 2.

Get real (1, Interesting)

davmoo (63521) | more than 6 years ago | (#20054655)

$15,000 *without* the battery?! A $100 - $200 monthly fee?!

Bawhahahahaha!!!

That's a good joke, they should take this act to Vegas.

Re:Get real (1)

Cutie Pi (588366) | more than 6 years ago | (#20054701)

No kidding... They are using this mobility fee to help people stomach the car's price. I don't know how car buying works in Europe, but at least in the U.S. many people view a car's price just by the monthly payment they need to make. (I just bought a car recently, and the salesperson tried to deal by quoting me monthly payment amounts. He seemed surprised when I asked for the actual amount financed).

A 5-year loan on a $15000 car will be around $300/mo (5% APR). That extra $200/mo adds 66% to the total monthly payment.

Re:Get real (1)

zeromorph (1009305) | more than 6 years ago | (#20054757)

You will pay approximately the same for a smart [smart.com] and even more for something like a Volkswagen Polo, and that's without gas! (Today about $1,80 for a liter at my nearest gas station!) The price is reasonable for Europe.

Re:Get real (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20054799)

But the Smart cars are actually pretty damn safe and can go 120km/h. And they don't look like some crappy 70s Yugo like this Think Shitty junk.

Re:Get real (1)

Ahruman (806510) | more than 6 years ago | (#20055025)

So... slower than the Think, then?

Re:Get real (1)

dunkelfalke (91624) | more than 6 years ago | (#20054811)

you pay less for a daihatsu cuore and cuore is bigger and faster.

Re:Get real (1)

IBBoard (1128019) | more than 6 years ago | (#20054821)

$1.80? I'm guessing that must be UK/Europe converted to US$ because there's no way the Americans would tollerate it that high!

I'm in the Midlands in the UK (so not the South where things can be more expensive) and the cheapest I can find locally is equivalent to ~$1.98 per litre. Most places are a couple of pence more expensive, so over the $2 mark. Apparently parts of Colorado (where my fiancee has family) have been paying less than $3 per US Gallon, which is ~4 litres.

Considering my little 1.2l Punto uses around £100 ($200) of petrol in a month for five 50 mile round trips per week then I don't think $200 per month would be that bad. Unless you have ridiculously cheap petrol.

Re:Get real (1)

IBBoard (1128019) | more than 6 years ago | (#20054833)

Just a quick reply to myself - I'm guessing Europe, as I just realised that you used a comma as a decimal separator :)

Right, Sherlock. (2, Informative)

zeromorph (1009305) | more than 6 years ago | (#20054915)

The price is actually from Germany. That's where I saw a Gas station this morning, now I'm in the Netherlands and here it's more around $1.90 or $2.00 for a liter.

For an international price list take a look at this [gasoline-germany.com] (prices in EURO).

Re:Get real (1)

JuanCarlosII (1086993) | more than 6 years ago | (#20054851)

I got the impression that the monthly charge was only to cover "hire" of the battery unit and didn;t include the actual electricity as well. I think you can add the cost of plugging the thing into the mains to charge to that $200 figure.

Re:Get real (1)

IBBoard (1128019) | more than 6 years ago | (#20054905)

Yeah, I was assuming it would be as well, but it'll probably still turn out comparatively cheap.

Besides, we all know that if they're anything like Apple batteries then loaning them then loaning a new one is probably easier than being charged large amounts of money when the battery life shortens and you want to replace a 'bought' one ;)

Re:Get real (1)

Libertarian001 (453712) | more than 6 years ago | (#20055051)

I live in Vegas. Bringing an act like that is a good way to get buried in the desert.

wouldn't the oil cartels... (1)

yanyan (302849) | more than 6 years ago | (#20054661)

simply move to quash the Think City before it actually hits the production line?

They can supply an oil battery (1)

cheekyboy (598084) | more than 6 years ago | (#20054951)

Supply a micro generator that uses a tank of gas/diesel sold at a one time cost, that would screw up their battery loan business plan.

Carbon Free? (5, Interesting)

JuanCarlosII (1086993) | more than 6 years ago | (#20054669)

..carbon-free electric driving machine
I appreciate that looking forward a larger proportion of our electricity will come from sustainable and green sources, but given the current situation I can;t see how they can claim an electric car to be 'carbon free'. Admittedly the car itself emits very little carbon, but this just means that the carbon emissions are being diverted to the power generation (unless of course, the electricity is being generated using a perpetual motion machine [slashdot.org] ). Also:

He points to the black steel chassis of a City standing on a nearby pallet; it's shipped preassembled from Thailand. At one station, workers attach the car's aluminum frame -- made in Denmark -- and drop in a French motor. At another station, prefabricated rust-and dent-resistant polymer-plastic body panels produced in Turkey are hung on the frame of a nearly completed car.
I'm not sure how shipping in different parts from all corners of the world necessarily helps the 'carbon-free' thing either. Basically, my thinking is that until electricity supplies are all (or at least mostly) from renewable and sustainable sources then a small electric car is no more or less environmentally friendly than say a small diesel car.

Re:Carbon Free? (1)

monk.e.boy (1077985) | more than 6 years ago | (#20054805)

Especially with a carbon fiber body, carbon fiber will stay round for millions of years. It's virtually indestructible... tsk...

I want my roof tiles to be solar panels, then I could charge my car for free, or charge (haha!) other people to use them.

We should dig up roads and replace them with fields, then string up loads of mono rails and run http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/actionnetwork/G1110 [bbc.co.uk] person al rapid transit monorails on them. How cool would that be?

monk.e.boy

Re:Carbon Free? (3, Informative)

WegianWarrior (649800) | more than 6 years ago | (#20054857)

You're forgetting two things.

First, this car is produced in Norway, where the overwhelming majority of power is generated by hydro-electric plants.

Secondly, the manufacturer was bought out by a company that specialices in solar energy.

So yes, it makes perfect sence for them to talk about a 'carbon free' car. Off course, the marketing blurb, reality in Norway and reality in [country of your choice] isn't always the same thing...

Nuclear + Wind (4, Insightful)

Nicolas MONNET (4727) | more than 6 years ago | (#20055031)

Current technologies exist to generate electricity carbon free.

Nuclear (70%+ of all electricity around here)

Wind is already competitive price-wise with coal. Its main problems are that they require massive initial investment, and that it takes A LOT of time to get over all the Nimbys. Wind also happens to be unpredictable, but that's a non issue as far as battery charging is concerned. All that's required is a broadcast flag to tell the charger to stop sucking current when not enough power is available.

Re:Carbon Free? (1)

fharper1961 (872200) | more than 6 years ago | (#20055137)

Last time I checked more than 80% of the electricity in France comes from carbon-free sources : mainly nuclear and some hydro. So it's definitely possible without a perpetual motion machine! It would be great if these are available and affordable when I move to Paris next year.

Re:Carbon Free? (2, Informative)

Bazar (778572) | more than 6 years ago | (#20055195)

I'm not sure how shipping in different parts from all corners of the world necessarily helps the 'carbon-free' thing either. Basically, my thinking is that until electricity supplies are all (or at least mostly) from renewable and sustainable sources then a small electric car is no more or less environmentally friendly than say a small diesel car.
There was a BBC documentary, about the death of the electric car. It went on about how the state of California, in its (now dead) initiative for electric cars, had worked out that even if the electric cars were fueled from the power generated from COAL, including the loss of power from the distribution grid. It'd still be more carbon friendly then burning petrol in a combustion engine.

The potential for a electric car to revolutionize the transit world is tremendous, but the oil companies, as do traditional the car manufacturers have a vested interest in not seeing it happen.

If you want to know more about the history of the eletric car, and the state of californa, and even the future of the eletric car, i'd STRONGLY advise you to watch

Chris Paine's 2006 documentary: Who Killed The Electric Car?

Re:Carbon Free? (1)

vegarg (997335) | more than 6 years ago | (#20055203)

I can;t see how they can claim an electric car to be 'carbon free'. Admittedly the car itself emits very little carbon, but this just means that the carbon emissions are being diverted to the power generation

We are talking about Norway, right? Norway being one of few countries in the world which generates nearly 100% of its electricity from hydropower plants.

BAHAHAHAHAHA (0)

Swampash (1131503) | more than 6 years ago | (#20054681)

The CEO is working with ... Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway

*wipes a tear*

Hold on -- this was a joke, right? Please tell me this was a joke.

No dealers? (1)

InakaBoyJoe (687694) | more than 6 years ago | (#20054699)

> no dealers

Question: where do you get it serviced?

Re:No dealers? (1)

AGMW (594303) | more than 6 years ago | (#20055159)

Well, back in the good old days Sir Clive Sinclair invented an Elecric Car called the C5 and it used a washing machine motor, so a service just involved calling out the local washing machine repair man!

Oh, those were the days!

This is car enough (4, Interesting)

zeromorph (1009305) | more than 6 years ago | (#20054703)

I think it's a good idea with a lot of potential here in Europe, maybe not in the US.

For me it's definitely enough car. For most people it would make a great second car.

From their homepage: [think.no]
Range: 180km
Speed: max. 100km/h

A max. speed of 120km/h would be nicer, but range and speed are sufficient for all of the routes on which I prefer car over train.

Re:This is car enough (2, Interesting)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 6 years ago | (#20054747)

If I hadn't already posted in the thread, I'd mod you informative.

There are already plenty of electric cars, but most don't go past 120 miles, and neither does this one. I have a small car with a small gas tank, and I have to refuel every 250 miles and I find it a hassle. Some electric cars can only go 70-80 miles before a recharge, and when you factor in having to drive home, that means driving 40 miles out and 40 miles home.

In a city like LA where people often live pretty far out from where they work, it just isn't feasible. Even a max of 112 miles (180km) is stretching it. A car isn't very useful to me if I can't really drive it much.

Re:This is car enough (2, Informative)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 6 years ago | (#20054917)

In a city like LA where people often live pretty far out from where they work, it just isn't feasible.

How much of the driving in LA is at slow speed in heavy traffic? Under those conditions a petrol engine will be less efficient, and an electric drive line will be more efficient.

Re:This is car enough (1)

icebrain (944107) | more than 6 years ago | (#20055135)

The point is, if the car doesn't have the range just to get to or from work, it doesn't matter how efficient it is. You still don't get home in the evening.

Re:This is car enough (1)

gig (78408) | more than 6 years ago | (#20054945)

You are talking about electric only. The Dean Kaman part is to make it a hybrid on order to increase the range. At the same time you could turn the Stirling off to take a quiet scenic drive.

Refill? (1)

Nicolas MONNET (4727) | more than 6 years ago | (#20055043)

All it takes is enough plugs to be available. You don't have to refill, just to plug the thing in when you park. Surely you can spare 30s of your time every day?

Re:Refill? (2, Interesting)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 6 years ago | (#20055071)

Assuming that there is an outlet where ever I have to park, which simply isn't the case. And how long does it take to recharge?

Do you think cities are going to put outputs in front of every parking spot in a city? Who is going to pay to install them? Who is paying for electricity used to recharge the cars?

Frankly, a plug-in car can really only be charged at your house. And until they can go 200 miles (100 mile each way) before a recharge, I don't believe they are feasible.

Re:Refill? (1, Interesting)

phozz bare (720522) | more than 6 years ago | (#20055177)

Do you think cities are going to put outputs in front of every parking spot in a city? Who is going to pay to install them? Who is paying for electricity used to recharge the cars?
You don't have parking meters where you live, do you? You'd have the same thing, but with an electrical outlet. You will pay for the electricity. The city will make money off it, paying for the initial setup.

Re:Refill? (2, Insightful)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 6 years ago | (#20055213)

They only have parking meters downtown. And the company I work for just did some massive construction downtown and it was a nightmare getting approval to do anything underground, so getting all the wiring done underground for an entire city is no small feat. And there is a different between plugging a quarter or two into the meter to park and paying to refuel my car. I imagine it will take a sizable amount of electricity and I can't simply pay for it with pocket change.

Re:This is car enough (3, Interesting)

AGMW (594303) | more than 6 years ago | (#20055179)

What I'd like to see is the Goverment doing something useful for a change (in the UK at least) and allow companies to charge their employees electric vehicles for free (ie a tax free perk) - sort of an green update on the old company car scheme.

So, drive 40 or 50 miles to work and plug the sucker in. It charges all day and you drive it home. A small overnight boost will get you back to work again!

Doing something like this would be a useful kick-start to the technology, and once it becomes more commonplace it should also get cheaper and drive the technology forward!

Re:This is car enough (1)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 6 years ago | (#20055237)

If they have open electrical outlets out on the street, no doubt people will use them for all kinds of things, and just bleed the electricity. Assuming you lived in London (where you have to pay the fee to drive, as well as the insane petrol prices) an electric car must sound lovely.

Re:This is car enough (1)

dunkelfalke (91624) | more than 6 years ago | (#20054789)

i like it.
and if they sell it for a good price, i'll buy it next summer - it would be the perfect car for me.

I thought so too... until (1)

earnest murderer (888716) | more than 6 years ago | (#20054897)

I got to the part about $15,000 to $17,000 U.S. PLUS 100-200 dollars a month in fees.

You can buy a, very fuel efficient compact import for a third less. Frankly, that thing makes a Kia look cool. Any savings in fuel are utterly obliterated by the cost of leasing the battery and "fees". I want an electric as much as anyone else, but that's a lot of cash to lay out. I'm sure they'll sell some to people who just want an electric car, but novelty isn't going to drive an industry.

I hope they're around long enough to drive down some costs and improve their product.

The whole bit about pushing electricity back into the grid... I don't know what battery efficiency is these days, but from what I remember you'll _spend_ about 60% more for the privilege. No thanks.

Re:I thought so too... until (1)

gig (78408) | more than 6 years ago | (#20054979)

You're forgetting that the cost of electricity to run the car is like paying 50 cents per gallon instead of $3.50, and notice that gas really costs you ten times more through taxes and environmental damage and desert military adventures and asthma and so on.

Re:I thought so too... until (1)

tgd (2822) | more than 6 years ago | (#20055077)

But, to be fair, you then need to add in the fact that most states charge you 2-3x more in property taxes or registration taxes if you run electric because they do not get the gas taxes to maintain roads.

Also add in the eventual expense of electricity as demand grows. Much of the US is at peak demand for large chunks of the year. There is not excess capacity on the grid for a large number of people to be charging electric cars. Electricity prices will skyrocket with demand.

Electric cars are not a magic bullet. They shift pollution except those people lucky enough to get their power from a nuclear source or even more rarely from wind, and are economically viable because of tax incentives that will go away with higher usage and an early adopter situation where it hasn't impacted market demand for electricity yet. Its like the people making bio-diesel in their houses and saying how much cheaper it is -- while illegally driving a car running untaxed fuel on public roads. The math works when you leave out half of the variables.

Electric cars are the future, I believe. But its misleading to suggest they are going to be cheaper to drive, especially in places that are as cheap as the US is right now.

Re:I thought so too... until (1)

dunkelfalke (91624) | more than 6 years ago | (#20055019)

oh. that is too much. i'll buy one for 7000, but not for more.

Re:This is car enough (2, Interesting)

Corporate Troll (537873) | more than 6 years ago | (#20054925)

Well, if it's payable.... Meaning much less than for example a Smart car, I'm all for it. When I was young and crazy, I bought an small roadster, which really is a gas guzzler at 10l/100km (~23.5mpg according to Google) and I still have it to this day. Selling it won't bring me enough money to buy an eco-friendly car and I don't want to invest in a new car. I mean if I have to add another 15k€ on the selling price, it'll take years before the savings start to kick in. It's stupid to replace a perfectly fine, but old car.

That said, I only work 10km from home and during peak traffic I need about 30 minutes to get there. Taking public transportation, I'm in for 45min at least. Taking the bike is 35min, but I'm all sweaty and we don't have showers at work. Sure, a towel some soap, a fresh t-shirt can do wonders, but it is sub-optimal.

A car like this would probably save me time and be environmentally friendly. I could keep the small roadster if I need to go somewhere further and faster...

Also, it's small, and while parking space is not an issue where I work, it's pretty much a big issue in the rest of the country. So, if it's in the 5k€ range (about the price of a small motorcycle), why not?

Re:This is car enough (1)

Kreigaffe (765218) | more than 6 years ago | (#20054967)

No way this would work in america. while sure, a lot of people live in cities.. outisde of a very few cities that almost anyone could name off the top of their head you STILL need to do traveling. Be that in your car or someone else's, you need to get around to get to work, to buy food, to get new socks when yours are worn through.

A car that tops out at 62mph? Yeah.. sorry, no, the speed limit on most highways is 65mpg. Even doing 65mph you're often a hazard -- going under the speed limit is most certainly dangerous. Add in a tiny little deathtrap and driving underspeed, and the cloud of smug around your head.. you gon' die.

Nevermind the fact that at THAT price, you can get MANY small, conventional cars. Many that get over 30mpg on the highway. And actually look pretty snazzy. Unlike.. that thing.

Yes, but... (-1, Redundant)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 6 years ago | (#20054715)

...does it run Linux?

Wrong questions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20054733)

It should be
Does it run fast?
Does it run cheap?

Why? Because these are as funny as yours (now), and a lot more interesting.

Stirling Engine (5, Interesting)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 6 years ago | (#20054749)

If I were to design a car these days, I would do as these guys did and use an electric motor for propulsion, and a Stirling engine for power generation. For those not in the know, Stirling engines [wikipedia.org] are engines that run on heat. They can be powered by pretty much anything that generates enough heat, including but not limited to fossil fuels. Compared to conventional combustion engines, they Stirling engines are more efficient, but they take a lot of time to increase or decrease speed. That is a problem when using them for driving the wheels, but not when generating elcetricity.

Thanks to AKAImBatman for pointing me at Stirling engines; I first read about them on his blog.

Re:Stirling Engine (1)

Corporate Troll (537873) | more than 6 years ago | (#20054943)

They can be powered by pretty much anything that generates enough heat, including but not limited to fossil fuels.

Nothing against sterling engines, but you seem to imply that internal combustion engines are bound to fossil fuel. That's not even remotely true: the original Diesel engine was designed to run on peanut oil [wikipedia.org] . Since it can also run on coal dust, I'm pretty sure it could run on flour for example, or haven't you ever heard of flour silo explosions? Diesels can pretty much run on anything that can explode when diffused.

What I'd like to see is a Diesel-Electric engine for a car. That'd be cool... I heard it doesn't scale well... (It's common in locomotives)

Re:Stirling Engine (1)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 6 years ago | (#20055087)

``Nothing against sterling engines, but you seem to imply that internal combustion engines are bound to fossil fuel. That's not even remotely true''

Ah, yes. Thanks for clarifying that. If I implied that internal combustion engines only run on fossil fuels, that was accidental. I am well aware that they run on other fuels, as well, and I actually plan to convert my (future) car to run on plain vegetable oil.

Re:Stirling Engine (2, Interesting)

jamesh (87723) | more than 6 years ago | (#20055229)

I'm pretty sure it could run on flour for example, or haven't you ever heard of flour silo explosions?

Now that would be cool. The catalytic converter could be turned into a bread maker, so you have fresh bread when you get where you're going. "I get 1.25 loaves/100km" you would tell people.

More seriously though, i'm not sure that flour would provide adequate lubrication, and the 'fuel' delivery system would be a nightmare to design, as would the exhaust.

Did you read that part about Kamen? (0, Troll)

nietsch (112711) | more than 6 years ago | (#20055085)

He is trying to fit a compact stirling engine in.
So your comment was rather superfluous, except for the 'I' part. Which we are not interested in.

Re:Stirling Engine (1)

evilviper (135110) | more than 6 years ago | (#20055165)

Compared to conventional combustion engines, they Stirling engines are more efficient,

Pretty much EVERYTHING is more efficient than old gasoline ICEs.

Turbo Diesel engines (which are Internal Combustion), however, certainly can be more efficient than Sterling engines, not to mention cheaper.

Turbines can thoroughly beat Sterling engines on efficiency as well.

There are problems external combustion engines as well. You're going to have to have an impressive engine assembly to withstand the extremely high temperatures, which have to be extremely high for reasonable efficiency. You're going to have to get regular maintenance on a much more complex and/or high tolerance piece of equipment. etc. etc.

They can be powered by pretty much anything that generates enough heat, including but not limited to fossil fuels.

Sterling engines will run on just about any fuel, but so will ICEs... Throw some Tequila in your gas tank, and watch it run. If you can figure a way to shovel ultra-fine coal dust in there, it'll burn that too. Diesels also support a wide range of fuels, and run at surprisingly good efficiency with most. And turbines can handle any fuels a sterling engine can.

The problem lies in adjusting the engines for the different fuels. You aren't going to fill up with fossil fuels one day, and pure ethanol the next. Adjustments need to be made, at least if you want any kind of reasonable efficiency.

Re:Stirling Engine (1)

KenRH (265139) | more than 6 years ago | (#20055241)

Sterling engines will run on just about any fuel, but so will ICEs... Throw some Tequila in your gas tank, and watch it run. If you can figure a way to shovel ultra-fine coal dust in there, it'll burn that too. Diesels also support a wide range of fuels, and run at surprisingly good efficiency with most. And turbines can handle any fuels a sterling engine can.

Reminds me of a story about someone running a old military truck on fish-oil.
The whole village where smelling like rotten fish.

Also a norwegian fish-farm was looking into the economic viability off makin fuel from wasted parts of the fish they slaugtered
But they would refine the fuel so it would probably smell less bad

No thanks - TOO UGLY (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20054751)

Note to all electric car makers out there: If it's uglier than the Smart cars, I'm not interested.

Assembly point infrastructure (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20054753)

Yeah I could see this working in Europe... possibly. Cosying up to Google (evil as they tend to be these days) could prevent the whole project being sat upon by the oil companies (but at what price?).

But my issue is with the selling mechanism- so all the parts are made in different countries? What is the carbon footprint of shipping the different parts to the different assembly points? Fine it could be smaller than shipping complete cars from a central factory, but they don't mention anything about what they're going to do to reduce this step's footprint.

Re:Assembly point infrastructure (1)

fbjon (692006) | more than 6 years ago | (#20055167)

Do you mean other cars don't have their parts made in different countries?

"mobility fee" of $100 to $200 a month (3, Insightful)

More_Cowbell (957742) | more than 6 years ago | (#20054791)

I fill my tank for ~ $70 a month (currently $3.45/gal), and I commute 30 miles round trip on workdays. True, there are plenty of people that can afford this (remember, the fee does not include electricity to charge), but this seems to be an elitist car at the moment.

Please wake me when I can help save the environment without declaring bankruptcy.

Re:"mobility fee" of $100 to $200 a month (1)

Corporate Troll (537873) | more than 6 years ago | (#20055047)

If that fee includes insurance for your car, it might be interesting.... Just an idea. Also, we in Europe pay closer to 5€ per gallon (much more in some places), just that you know. Many people I know have a similar commute as you have, so don't start about "everything is closer in Europe".

Re:"mobility fee" of $100 to $200 a month (1)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 6 years ago | (#20055061)

They are using the 'mobility fee' as a way to get the car's price down to manageable levels. If you simply think of it as a $50k car, but with lifetime batteries (which are insanely expensive), the real cost of the car comes clear. ($34k battery and ~$16k car.) In addition, when viewed as monthly fee, they can't charge you interest on the $34k, but only the $16k for the car. For anyone who can afford this car, this is a very good deal indeed.

For the rest of us, no. It's insane. I want to spend ~$8k-$10k on a car, max. (My last 2 were ~$4k each.) It gets me to work and back, and serves very little other real use. I never underestood paying so much for just a car, no matter how fancy.

Re:"mobility fee" of $100 to $200 a month (1)

simong (32944) | more than 6 years ago | (#20055083)

In most of the rest of the world, gasoline is more like $7 a gallon (currently about £0.94-0.99 a litre in the UK) and the cost of gas in the US has doubled since I was there four years ago, so if that's not a problem, I don't know what is.

Your all MORONS!!! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20054795)

if you think this will go anywhere!

This is the US - we drive BIG cars. I'll believe in electric cars when they bring out a 4x4 that will go up a mountain with 2 deer in the back.

Did you see Jeremy Clarkson's latest? A race to the North Pole in a Toyota pick-up? That man's got balls. You don't do that in a little electric golf-cart.

Sure, but will it BLEND? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20054823)

For $15,000, surely they can fit a BlendTec(TM) in there somewhere; for when I need a smoothie (blech) on the go!

I don't see this thing taking off unless they can halve the price. I love my PT Cruiser (first new car I've ever purchased) which was a little over 13,000. This thing is tempting, but not at that price! Now if we were talking $7500, and it passed crash testing, I would seriously consider one.

Re:Sure, but will it BLEND? (1)

Hatukaze (190884) | more than 6 years ago | (#20055011)

$15,000 is nothing for a new car i Norway (and I guess most of Europe). I will definitely buy one!

Cheaper one from India (5, Interesting)

ScorpFromHell (837952) | more than 6 years ago | (#20054843)

did we ever discuss about the Indian electric car company Reva [revaindia.com] any time in the past? Their latest variant, Reva i [indiaenews.com] , released this month costs around USD 9K (at exchange rate of INR 40 per USD).

Sure, it can only do a top speed of around 50MPH with a range of 60 Miles per charge, but I guess that's enough for city driving? I don't know, but is USD 9K too much for a small electric car that can carry two adults & two children in your place? In India, it is a viable option as a second car, for the growing numbers of nouveau rich at least.

Warning: Businessspeak (3, Interesting)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 6 years ago | (#20054883)

For those of you who are about to RTFA: be warned, it contains businessspeak.

I have no idea what they mean by describing the car as "open-source". Also, they can't seem to decide whether it's a car, a glorified terminal, a power generator, or an iPod.

I also get the eerie impression that it is vaporware. Golden mountains are being promised, but will they be delivered? With so many rich people being enthusiastic about it, there is just a chance, but still, I don't want to get my hopes squashed again.

All in all, it looks very cool. I want one.

Re:Warning: Businessspeak (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20055073)

It's definitely not vapourware -- Think have been selling these in Norway and some other countries for years, but the batteries make them relatively pricey for the size so they've mostly been bought by enthusiasts. The article is presumably a bit of marketing ahead of a relaunch in the US.

Cars are a status symbol (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20054885)

Nonstandard cars (electric and hybrid) as currently conceived, are likely to remain curiosities. To begin with, when doing the numbers they are not all that cheap to run. Second, at least in the case of electric cars, they still have pitiful performance/price ratios. Third (and perhaps most damning) they look either dorky (most hybrids) or ridiculous (most electric cars.) Compare them against the status symbols that most of us buy, and you'll see that the masses are not likely to go for them. Much will have to change before the advantages afforded by these technologies offset those issues.

Obligatory Simpsons Quote (0, Offtopic)

ganesaraja12 (963631) | more than 6 years ago | (#20054891)

"Hi, I'm an electric car. I can't go very fast...or very far...and if you drive me, people will think you're gay." "One of us, one of us" Don't hit me *guards face*

Snowballs chance in hell (0, Offtopic)

ebolaZaireRules (987875) | more than 6 years ago | (#20054911)

"Small Electric Car May Usher In Big Changes" Next weeks headline: "Small Snowball freezes Big Bad Gates of Hell"

Dell in the auto industry? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20054933)

When did Dell shake up the auto industry?

Insert a bash the slashdot editor quote here.

Car dealership is required (4, Interesting)

ptbarnett (159784) | more than 6 years ago | (#20054965)

Selling via the web may sound cool, but at least one state (Texas) requires that a retail automobile purchase be conducted through a brick-and-mortar dealer.

Re:Car dealership is required (0, Offtopic)

thefirelane (586885) | more than 6 years ago | (#20054987)

Selling via the web may sound cool, but at least one state (Texas) requires that a retail automobile purchase be conducted through a brick-and-mortar dealer. I can't think of any state worse in which to try to sell this car... I don' think they're worried.

Jonoton? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20055059)

Hi Jonoton,

you are thinking of 'quadracycles'. These dont need submitted for NCAP.
This car- the Ford Think, which was available in the UK a couple of years
ago, is NCAP rated.

And- the crash test you are thinking about was for a machine called the
G-Wiz. Not this Ford Think.

Okay?

Not really new, but still great (1)

orzetto (545509) | more than 6 years ago | (#20055127)

Think cars [wikipedia.org] have been around in Norway for quite some time. They have a number of supporting measures from the government, such as lower taxes (taxes on a new car are about as much as the car itself over here), they can use reserved lanes and are exempt from city toll rings (fairly common, even if they removed the one where I live).

A thing you will have to get used is not to rely on your ears when crossing a road. These cars are very silent, once I almost got run over by one because it was so silent that I thought there couldn't possibly be any car around; in fact it was just a meter or two behind me. Luckily it was just the university campus and the car was driving very slow...

This pathetic... really pathetic,,, (0)

3seas (184403) | more than 6 years ago | (#20055139)

I have somewhere the plans for turning an opal gt into a 150 mile a gallon vehicle.

A car that is powered by a dc jet engine starting motor that is in turn powered by a 5 hp brigg and stratten lawn mower engine that turns an electric generator. There are also batteries that the car can run off or but when slowing down to stop some of the breaking power is by reverse power direction that takes the breaking force and converts it back to electricty to store in the batteries.

These plans are from the 1970's from mother earth news magizine.

So in the past 30 or so years we still don't have any real improvements in gas millage???? What the fuck?

But here is an idea. Take the City, remove the lease by removing the batteries and replace it with a lawn mower engine based power plant or better yet, a smaller than lawn mower engine sized rotary engine based power plant.

Or if you read playboy (aug issue) consider a lawn mower engine sized veggie oil burning engine that is small and simple enough that your backyard mechanic can cheaply enough deal with the problems of that type of engine.

This is fucking ridiculous and really should be becoming more publicized as to the obviousness of the intentional failure of the auto industry to not already have vehicles that get upwards of 200 miles a gallon vehicles being sold to the general public and at very affordable proces.

The lease stuff about the City batteries should be a hit....

 

It's all about the battery (1)

nietsch (112711) | more than 6 years ago | (#20055163)

They suggest they will be using a Li-ion battery. I sincerely hope for them they will be using LiFePo chemistry, as ordinary Li-ion and Li-polymer batteries only last around 200-500 cycles.(NiMH is similar and weighs two times more) That means you'd have to buy a new battery every one or two years. The batteries as produced by a123systems can handle 1000-2000 cycles according to the manufacturer. These batteries are a bit heavier, but live longer, don't 'explode' in a crash and are a bit cheaper at ~$1/WattHour.

Email from Think (5, Informative)

meador (618932) | more than 6 years ago | (#20055185)

I emailed Think with a few questions after they announced their battery pack deal with Tesla.
Here's the text:

Dear xxx,

Thank you for your e-mail and interest in Think!

Think is currently in the process of preparing the new TH!NK city for production in the fall of 2007. The new TH!NK city meets all US and European homologation and safety requirements. It has a range of 110 miles, a top speed of over 60 mph and has comfort and convenience features you would expect of a normal car such as, A/C, electric windows, mirrors, etc.

Due to production capacity limitation and a desire to become very visible in the markets we enter, we will sell exclusively in Norway and the UK in 2007 and the first few months of 2008. Unfortunately, I am unable to confirm the timing of a US launch.

About your questions:

1) How many miles / years will the batter pack last? --> 7 to 10 for Norway
2) Can the top speed governer be altered? (Part of my daily commute is on the highway) --> NO
3) Do you have any plans to bring the Think back to the US? --> YES
4) What is the cost of the car and cost for the replacement battery pack? --> Not yet known for USA, in Norway 200.000 NOK

I have added your name to our list of interested parties and we'll send you information on prices and launch dates as they become available. Please contact me if you have any further questions. For more information please visit our website: www.think.no.

Thanks for your interest and all best.


Kind regards

Alejandra Hagbartsen
Market assistant

THINK GLOBAL AS

Sandakerveien 24
0473 Oslo
www.think.no

Tel: +47 23 40 84 04
Mob: +47 993 88 329
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