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One hundred unfinished Think City cars wait to be completed, but there is no sign of that happening

Alternative energy efforts just can't catch a break these days. In the past six months alone, three major renewable energy companies filed for bankruptcy after receiving grant money from the federal government. Now, it looks like an electric vehicle (EV) plant in Indiana has taken a dive.

Two years ago, Think City cars, which are tiny two-seater EVs that are manufactured by Think Global, were expected to create over 400 environmentally friendly jobs in Elkhart County, Indiana with a production plant. In January 2010, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels boasted the idea of bringing Think to Indiana in an effort to make the state a top electric supporter.

While the intentions were good, things just didn't turn out that way. Today, the Think City plant has 100 vehicles waiting to be completed, but there is no sign of that happening anytime soon. The quiet plant only has two employees right now who keep an eye on the place, and no one seems to know if this situation will ever change.

The Think City plant, as well as its electric battery supplier Ener1, was given incentives and tax breaks galore from the federal government back in 2010 in order to promote alternative energy ideas. It was also an effort to help bring down the price of the Think City cars. However, no one considered the fact that consumers may not want a tiny two-seater car that has a top speed of 65 mph and a hefty $42,000 price tag. Also, Ener1, whose EnerDel subsidiary won an $118.5 million grant in 2009 from the Department of Energy, filed for bankruptcy last week, which undoubtedly affected the Think City plant. EnerDel spent $55 million of the grant before filing.

"By giving money to the battery company and electric car company, they are saying, 'We want you to buy their products even though we know you don't want them,'" said Gregg Fore, an Elkhart recreational vehicle industry executive.

The Think City plant now sits practically vacant. It seems as if the Think City idea was a failure, and not even Boris Zingarevich, the Russian investor who bought Think Global after its bankruptcy, could provide any clarity on the matter. It's also unclear what the total losses are for the state, and how much both Ener1 and Think received in credits and incentives.

The Think City failure resembles a few other recent alternative energy troubles as of late. In September 2011, Silicon Valley-based solar panel company Solyndra filed for bankruptcy after receiving $535 million from the Department of Energy in 2009. Government officials reportedly warned the administration of the viability of Solyndra, saying that it wouldn't last more than a few years, but the warnings were put aside to meet political deadlines.

In November 2011, Beacon Power, a company that creates flywheels to store power and increase grid efficiency by preventing blackouts, filed for bankruptcy after receiving a $43 million loan guarantee from the DOE in August 2010. Then, just last week, Ener1 filed for bankruptcy protection.

Source: The Detroit News

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Who Killed the Electric Car?
By therealnickdanger on 2/3/2012 9:38:40 AM , Rating: 4

I'll buy an electric car, but not until it's large enough to carry four people in comfort along with something in the trunk, powerful enough to reach 80 MPH (at least), and capable of traversing the entire nation at will with no more than a 5 minute "fill up"... and do it all for under $15,000.

Until then, I'll happily buy 35-40MPG "gas guzzlers" that do just that.

RE: Who Killed the Electric Car?
By therealnickdanger on 2/3/2012 9:40:00 AM , Rating: 2
I meant 5-minute fill ups, plural, along the way, not one fill up for the whole trip. I'm not aware of any cars that can drive cross-country on one tank of fuel.

RE: Who Killed the Electric Car?
By Samus on 2/3/2012 9:54:22 AM , Rating: 2
It's too bad, I know a lot of us here in Chicago (its target market) were looking forward to this car because of its verticle parking ability and relatively low "$20K' price. You'd be surprised to know Chicago has the largest Smart Car market outside of San Diego (supposedly the biggest) and people are interested in a battery alternative if the price is right. Chicago is a pretty big city, but 80-100 miles of range allows you to drive across the city and back with no problem, and the average commute is less than 20 miles.

The major problem here is terrible traffic and everlasting construction projects: that is where EV's (and hybrids) win big.

However, the underlying issue with EV's is most people I know only have street parking, making recharging impractical, but the target market for this car is suburban commuters that travel into the city for work, and almost all of them have a garage or access to a power outlet in their off-street parking lot or driveway.

RE: Who Killed the Electric Car?
By drycrust3 on 2/3/2012 10:08:25 AM , Rating: 4
relatively low "$20K' price

I suspect one major problem with the Think Car, according to the article, is the price isn't actually even close to "a low $20K" mark.
However, no one considered the fact that consumers may not want a tiny two-seater car that has a top speed of 65 mph and a hefty $42,000 price tag.

RE: Who Killed the Electric Car?
By michael67 on 2/3/2012 1:12:43 PM , Rating: 3
They went for about $30k, not great but not real bad eider.
Problem is most people have not considered how to utilize a car like this the best way.

Me and my wife's family live close to the city of Bergen in Norway, what use to be farm country but is now the suburbs, we live there with lets say 4 family's on family owned land.

And we got our self a couple of years ago, actually 2 of these car's second hand for about $10k each.
And everyone in the whole family is using them, for all those small trips like going to the gym, go shopping, and go to school, so on and so on, and now we actually considering buying 1 or 2 more.

Not saying that i love the car, actually i really don't, but one aspect of the car you got to love, its about 85% (about 70% for USA) cheaper to drive per km/mile then a normal petrol car.

6Kr = $1 +/-

But agree, the new price is a bit to high for a small cheap plastic car. (it dose hardly rust do ;-)
They should let you pick battery size your self as it count for a large chunk of the prize, as we could properly do with half the size.

No they are not a replacement for a real car, but hey, they do make for a hell of a cheap in use second car.

RE: Who Killed the Electric Car?
By StanO360 on 2/3/2012 3:00:22 PM , Rating: 3
But it's very relevant that you purchased it used and therefore the real value is revealed. If it was 10k used it should have been 16k-18k new (maybe?). Not 30k. A lot of Americans would buy one under those terms too.

The Smart cars are a flop because they cost as much as compacts and get the same MPG, they're hideous and tiny (and like many Finn's we are tall as well).

RE: Who Killed the Electric Car?
By Alexvrb on 2/4/2012 12:52:12 AM , Rating: 2
I've talked to a couple of Smart car owners who admitted that the mileage is not as good as they were anticipating, not in real world driving conditions. Plus, as you said, they are ugly, tiny, and overpriced. Even a typical compact car towers over them.

RE: Who Killed the Electric Car?
By Alvord on 2/5/2012 12:46:00 PM , Rating: 1
I own a Think City and it is very dependable and cheap to operate. I pay only $20 to drive 1000 miles. It's 10 times cheaper to fuel than my gasoline car. However, the purchase price is too high. Same for the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi iMiev. Price should be less than $15K not $35K. EVs are so much simpler than conventional cars. No reason to cost so much.

RE: Who Killed the Electric Car?
By mmatis on 2/3/2012 10:43:55 AM , Rating: 1
Actually, THIS one:
could probably do cross-country on one tank, if filled appropriately. As long as the weigh stations along the way didn't keep them tied up too long...

Same for this one:

RE: Who Killed the Electric Car?
By Dr of crap on 2/3/2012 10:00:51 AM , Rating: 3
EVs are NOT for users like you - or I.
EVs will not replace gas burning cars in our liftime, and are NOT MEANT TO BE.

IF you live close to your work, or don't spend a lot of time on the freeway, then EVs are for you. YOU CAN NOT DRIVE THEM on a long trip and they are not meant for this.

I am not for EVs, they do not fit into my driving, but can we please stop with the -
"if they could go 300 plus miles and take 4 people, and then go across country for less than $xx,xxx then I buy one"

WE ALL know this is not what they are for and will not be for a long time!

RE: Who Killed the Electric Car?
By espaghetti on 2/3/2012 10:15:49 AM , Rating: 3
Then what is the point of taking money from my income to give it to these people?

RE: Who Killed the Electric Car?
By mmatis on 2/3/2012 10:46:03 AM , Rating: 2
Because you OWE them, of course! They are better than you, and don't you dare to forget it!

RE: Who Killed the Electric Car?
By Flunk on 2/3/2012 11:12:35 AM , Rating: 2
That's a load of crap, your name is pretty apt in that respect.

By strapmonkey on 2/3/2012 12:40:58 PM , Rating: 3
Out with the flu the day they taught "Irony 101" at your high school, eh, Flunk? By the bye, how'd you get that username?

RE: Who Killed the Electric Car?
By tng on 2/3/2012 2:38:40 PM , Rating: 2
WE ALL know this is not what they are for...
OK... I'll bite, what ARE they for then? Black hole for government funding?

By DaveLessnau on 2/4/2012 9:02:21 AM , Rating: 2
OK. Assume you're right. EVs are for people who:

- drive fairly short distances to work
- don't do much highway driving

The problem is that those same people also NEED a car for long distances and highway driving. But, because of the nature of the beast, they can't REPLACE their existing car with a $42,000 EV. They have to ADD that $42,000 EV to their stable of vehicles.

Not gonna happen.

By phxfreddy on 2/5/2012 10:15:38 PM , Rating: 2
Should have called it

"Stink Electric Car"

cause these lib schemes really do smell of a myriad of corrupting influences.

By Maruta731 on 2/8/2012 12:07:36 AM , Rating: 2
Getting 300 mile range from a 5-minute charge is not feasible with the current electric grid (just 100 such cars charging at the same time would require a nuclear reactor to support).

By toyotabedzrock on 2/3/12, Rating: 0
By Samus on 2/3/2012 11:59:11 AM , Rating: 4
I agree. Everyone seems to have a side. This isn't a liberal or conservative party malfunction. It's a government malfunction. Both party's are raping the system in exactly the same ways.

By Ringold on 2/3/2012 8:55:22 PM , Rating: 3
Partly. There's a wing of the Republican party that has the same industrial policy beliefs as Democrats. There's also a very vocal wing of the party, the Tea Party being an element of that wing, that loudly says all such intervention is foolhardy and destined to end just like this did, as such things almost always have throughout history.

So, unfair to paint the Republican party with such a broad brush. No such wing exists in the Democrat party, though. If they exist, they're awfully quiet anyway.

By Just Tom on 2/4/2012 2:35:54 PM , Rating: 2
Intetresting,except it says nothing about Republicans supporting grants to Ener1. Touring a plant and saying it is wonderful is different than handing it money.

Typical gov stupidity and corruption
By zlandar on 2/3/2012 9:52:59 AM , Rating: 3
Instead of providing a neutral playing field the government decides to play favorites and fancies itself a venture capitalist that is beholden to lobbyists and special interests.

By dabes on 2/4/2012 11:20:26 PM , Rating: 2
Had the Millions been given out as rebates directly to people who actually BOUGHT electric cars.. instead our tax dollars were once again wasted; and the rich get richer.

By Radiomachine on 2/5/2012 12:37:47 AM , Rating: 3
Will make Madoff look like a rank amateur when its all said and done. Just a naked transfer of wealth by an administration from the taxpayer to its ideological and financial supporters much like the GM bailout...knowing from the get-go it was a garbage business model doomed to failure.

Bring it here...
By Ramstark on 2/3/2012 1:52:45 PM , Rating: 2
Bring that plant to Mexico, where Mexico city is ideal for electrical, small, agile cars.
Give some money to the gov. and make them reduce the price tag to "near $20K" and you will recover that money lost in a sea of horribly implemented, good ideas...

A Local
By FredEx on 2/6/2012 8:52:45 AM , Rating: 2
I'm in Michigan, but just 3 miles from the Indiana border and about a 35 minute drive from that plant. From what I hear on the local news and from people I know involved, there was nothing wrong with the vehicles and they had people lined up to buy them. Other companies involved going down (battery for one) and the parent company getting in to money problems and crashing big time killed the Think.

By hiscross on 2/3/12, Rating: -1
RE: liberals
By vortmax2 on 2/3/2012 9:34:56 AM , Rating: 2
Liberal or not it just seems like not much thought was put into some of these ventures...

RE: liberals
By Samus on 2/3/2012 9:47:09 AM , Rating: 2
I think the recent economic strategy was "throw money into everything and odds are one of them will become the next Google (or facebook)"

The problem with that strategy, is if you look at all the worlds largest corporations (Microsoft, Toyota, Nintendo, Google, Facebook, Apple, etc) you'll quickly notice none of them got to where they are with government help. They got there with an idea, hard work, and some luck.

Sure, venture capitalism plays its part in a lot of facets, but a government of people should never be a venture capitalist unless it is for the greater good (and need) of the nation's people. That's what government's sole purpose is, to protect and provide for its' citizens. That's how we justify paying taxes.

RE: liberals
By crimson117 on 2/3/2012 9:53:45 AM , Rating: 3
Every single one of those companies has enjoyed tax breaks to build a facility somewhere.

Of course other things helped to make them successful, like good products, but it's not as if they've never taken government subsidies.

RE: liberals
By Samus on 2/3/2012 10:08:02 AM , Rating: 2
Of course they've have tax breaks. A company will always seek out government subsidies through lobbying or availbility, but none of them (AFAIK) got help during their initial startup. All of those companies were initially funded through private investment (either from its initial owners, private loan or a venture capitalist.)

I just think government has no place to be investing in the private sector. Their job is to support the military and public sector, which includes education, disability, retirement security, safety (police, fire, disease, medication, food control, etc) infrastructure and occasional market regulation for consumer safety.

It can be argued they should fund sciences (Nasa) and the financial system (the 'Fed') but we've all seen how well that works...

They do not belong in health care (this is a citizens choice) or any form of private insurance. They do not belong in any private venture. The government isn't in a position to use our tax dollars to fund private industry without our voting its approval. We pay tax and trust the government will use it to provide for us. I don't see how Solyndra or pushing EV technology is providing for its citizens when education is in shambles, many states are broke, and the government is broke. Broken window falacy at its heart.

RE: liberals
By strapmonkey on 2/3/2012 12:46:28 PM , Rating: 2
And that all works, Samus, assuming that the individuals involved in private capital venture are honest, upright citizens of good moral fiber. Otherwise, not so much. Of course, the argument that government should be involved in regulation of private industry also assumes that the bureaucrats involved are honest, upright citizens of good moral fiber. Mmmmmm, wait a moment! I believe we have elucidated the lowest common denominator; people suck, and,as a result, most everything they do sucks.

RE: liberals
By Ringold on 2/3/2012 8:51:14 PM , Rating: 2
Exactly, except the framers of our constitution understood that people being inherently corrupt is different in the public versus private spheres of life. If the private realm, the government and the community stands in the way of excessive abuse. Concentrate power in the government though, and those corrupt people have the full, unlimited sovereign power of the state behind them.

Better, then, to let people suck of their own accord and not subsidize it.

RE: liberals
By Reclaimer77 on 2/3/2012 12:58:26 PM , Rating: 2
Huh? Tax break?

I guess I missed the part in Bill Gates's biography when someone from the Government came to him and said, "I'll give you a subsidy if code your OS from your garage"

I also missed the part where the government paid people to buy the first version of Windows with a "tax-credit".

RE: liberals
By taichou on 2/3/2012 1:04:23 PM , Rating: 2
In January 2010, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels boasted the idea of bringing Think to Indiana in an effort to make the state a top electric supporter.

When did he become a liberal?

RE: liberals
By hiscross on 2/3/2012 5:07:17 PM , Rating: 2
All politicians are liberals. Some. like many democrats, are more socialist than liberal, but in the end, they are all pretty useless.

"I'd be pissed too, but you didn't have to go all Minority Report on his ass!" -- Jon Stewart on police raiding Gizmodo editor Jason Chen's home

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