Norwegian electric-car company Think Global plans to bring its five-seat crossover concept vehicle, called the Think Ox, to the U.S. market as early as 2010, said Don Cochrane, the company’s U.K. sales and marketing director.
The car, which will have a top speed of about 85 mph and will be able to drive for about 125 miles on one charge, has been designed specifically with the United States in mind, but will also be sold internationally, he said.
Cochrane added that the company also is considering adding a serial hybrid powertrain, which would pair the electric motor with an engine that uses fuel to give the vehicle unlimited range. A serial, or series, hybrid differs from hybrids on the streets today in that only the motor -- not the engine -- propels the vehicle.
The news comes on the heels of the concept car’s unveiling at the International Motor Show in Geneva on Wednesday. In a joint announcement the same day, General Electric (NYSE: GE) said it had invested $4 million in Think and $20 million in A123Systems, and Think said it had signed an agreement to buy batteries from lithium-ion manufacturer A123Systems.
To bring the car to market, Think will need additional investment partners and possibly a large auto manufacturer to help develop the vehicle’s platform, Cochrane said. Last week, Think Chairman Jan-Olaf Willums said the electric-car company would likely partner with a large automaker in order to build a bigger vehicle (see Think to Partner with Large Automaker).
Last month, A123 said it already had raised $40 million in its fourth round of funding, led by GE (see Seeking Alpha post). The funding brought GE’s total stake in the battery startup to $20 million, making GE the largest cash investor in A123, according to the announcement (also see Earth2Tech post and VentureBeat post).
A123 has had a relationship with GE since 2006, when the bigger company invested in the startup’s $30 million second round of private-equity funding (see VCs Charge Up Battery Firm). A123 had previously raised $32 million (see Battery Pumps Up Power Tools). GE also invested in the battery startup’s $30 million round last year (see In Brief: A123Systems Gets $30M Charge).
The deal between Think and A123 isn’t exactly unexpected, either.
In October, Willums told Greentech Media that Think was in the process of signing a development deal with A123Systems after its deal with Tesla Motors fell through (see Tesla Suspends Battery Business).
A123Systems -- which also is planning an IPO within the next year, according to the announcement -- isn’t Think’s only battery partner.
Last month, Think said it had signed a deal with Enova Systems (AMEX: ENA) to provide at least 1,000 power-control units for its small Think City electric cars this year (see Green Cars Cruise Forward). Think also has signed agreements with Indianapolis-based Enerdel and France-based Groupe Dassault to develop battery systems for its cars.
But the new deal -- along with the new funding -- could be another sign that the electric–car business is becoming more serious.
In February, Gartner analyst Thilo Koslowski said the stream of announcements of alternative-vehicle partnerships shows that companies are "heading in the right direction" because they are focusing on setting up supply and distribution chains -- an important step toward mass production and distribution.