Norway’s Think Plans to Build Electric Cars in Indiana and Test Them in Southern California with Additional Funding from Boston

Boston’s Rockport Capital has chipped in $12.5 million as part of a $40 million financing round for Think, the Oslo, Norway-based company building long-range electric vehicles. Think said in an May 11 announcement that it plans to use the new funds to expand operations and sales in North America, including opening a planned assembly facility in Elkhart County, IN.

Ener1 (NASDAQ: HEV), a New York-based lithium ion battery developer, chipped in another $12.5 million for the round, which brought Think’s total venture funding to at least $170 million. (Ener1 subsidiary EnerDel supplies battery cells for the stubby Think City model.) All of the company’s other existing shareholders—including General Electric, Finland’s Valmet Automotive, the Norwegian government investment fund Investinor, and Silicon Valley venture firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers—also re-upped for this round, Think said.

Since emerging from bankrupcty in August 2009, Think has collected $87 million. “Our additional investment reflects our confidence in Think as exceptionally well-positioned for success with a proven product and leading technology in electric drive systems,” Rockport co-managing general partner Wilber James said in a statement Wednesday. (Rockport representatives were not immediately available for fresh comment on the funding round.)

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Think CEO Richard Canny said the company plans to ship 500 cars to the U.S. in the fourth quarter of this year for testing in five or six markets, possibly including San Diego, Los Angeles, and the San Francisco Bay Area.

Think is manufacturing the cars in Finland, at the same Valmet Automotive plant where Porsche Caymans, Porsche Boxsters, and Fisker Karma hybrid luxury sedans are built. The company hopes to begin assembling the City in Elkhart beginning in the first quarter of 2011.

The Elkhart plant may not open, however, unless Think’s North American subsidiary can secure a large-scale production loan under the U.S. Department of Energy’s $25 billion Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing loan program. The company says the DOE recently completed “the initial phase of due diligence” on its loan application.

Think was founded in 1991 and has long been focused on building battery-powered vehicles powerful enough to travel highways alongside gas-powered cars. Ford Motor Company owned Think from 1999 to 2003; the City two-seater hatchback, which came out in 2000, was the first highway-capable electric vehicle to win safety approval throughout Europe. But in 2008, battered by the economic crisis, Think filed for bankruptcy protection. The company was bailed out last summer in a $47 million recapitalization led by Ener1, Valmet, and Investinor.

Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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One response to “Norway’s Think Plans to Build Electric Cars in Indiana and Test Them in Southern California with Additional Funding from Boston”

  1. Car says:

    Aren’t electric cars as expensive as most cars such as Civics? I don’t know. One thing is for sure though, the electric cars look so tacky.