Norwegian electric-car company Think Global plans to announce it will partner with a large automaker next week in order to build a bigger vehicle, Chairman Jan-Olaf Willums said Tuesday.

It’s a change for the company, which has been producing distinctive cars about the size of a Mini Cooper.

At the Cleantech Forum in San Francisco, Willums said he wouldn’t divulge any more details until next week.

It would be interesting if the partner turned out to be Ford Motor. Think’s technology originally was developed by Ford (see Recharged Runabout).

The company isn’t alone in its all-electric efforts to team with auto-industry giants.

All-electric sports car maker Tesla Motors also said last week it wants to partner with a large automaker to manufacture its third model at "high volumes" (see Tesla to Big Three: Let’s Be Friends).

Tesla’s third model is expected to be a compact sports car with a price tag of between $30,000 and $35,000.

Electric cars haven’t always been a joy ride for large automakers (think "Who Killed the Electric Car"), but Willums sees that changing.

For example, Renault-Nissan Alliance said in January it would partner with Project Better Place to mass-produce electric cars.

All this partnership news shows that alternative-vehicle companies are beginning to focus on forming their supply chains, an important step toward mass production and distribution, said Thilo Koslowski, lead automotive analyst at Gartner, last week (see Green Cars Cruise Forward).

"It’s a healthy development. It’s very important for the entire industry that the companies are making headway," he said.

But even with large manufactures getting on board, electric vehicles still have a ways to go.

Among the biggest challenges facing electric vehicles are batteries, which are key to getting better mileage out of hybrids and better range out of all-electric vehicles, and the difficulty of recharging them.

Case in point: One conference attendee asked how she could drive from Arizona to California in one of Think’s vehicles. "I think you are typically a noncustomer for us," Willums responded, adding Think is targeting drivers who commute short distances.