Electric vehicle bet a bust for Indiana

State's gamble on Think cars is cautionary tale
March 8, 2012 12:01 am

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What is known, however, is that both the Obama and Bush administrations poured millions of dollars into battery production in a quest to power thousands of Think City vehicles with lithium-ion batteries. To date, Ener1, parent of the battery company, has spent $55 million in federal funding, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

In hindsight, some analysts say government backing of the car didn't seem like a bad investment. "It looked like electric vehicles were it in 2008. It really did," said Theodore O'Neill, an analyst who has followed the electric car industry. "You had the government calling the shots and doling the money out with the major [automakers]."

Still, Mr. O'Neill says he wouldn't buy such a car. "For $40,000, you can get a certified pre-owned BMW convertible and a Vespa scooter. Both of them. And if you want to have a good time, put the top down." General Motors' Chevrolet Volt electric car also comes for about the same price.

Think City's plant, a 10-minute drive from Elkhart's Main Street, appears all but abandoned these days. No one in Elkhart could point to a local executive in charge of production. A person identified as a spokesman declined to comment, saying he was no longer on the payroll.

The person who may have the most to say about Think's future also isn't talking. Russian investor Boris Zingarevich bought Think Global, the Norwegian parent company, at auction a month after its bankruptcy.

Reached by phone in Russia, Slava Bychkov, a spokesman for Ilim Group, said he could not provide details of the car company's future.

First Published 2012-03-07 23:45:02

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