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Summary:

Cleantech investors Kleiner Perkins and RockPort Capital Partners are thinking U.S. consumers will be interested in a mainstream electric vehicle that is cheaper than the Prius. The duo announced today that they have decided to create a joint venture with one of their investments, Norwegian company […]

Cleantech investors Kleiner Perkins and RockPort Capital Partners are thinking U.S. consumers will be interested in a mainstream electric vehicle that is cheaper than the Prius. The duo announced today that they have decided to create a joint venture with one of their investments, Norwegian company Think Global, to create Think North America, which will sell electric cars (beginning with the Think City) stateside.

At the Fortune Brainstorm Green conference in Pasadena, Calif., this morning, Kleiner’s Ray Lane, RockPort’s Wilber James, and Think Global CEO Jan-Olaf Willums made the announcement. The firms were quiet on many of the details, but said that the joint venture will first offer “hundreds” of Think City cars to fleets (such as those operated by utilities) later this year, before it plans to start selling a couple thousand cars to consumers next year — for less than the cost of a Prius, or under $25,000; eventually the venture plans to scale up production to sell cars at the rate of 30,000 to 40,000 per year.

Kleiner and Rockport own 50 percent of the venture, while Think Global will hold the remaining 50 percent, the firms said. Neither Lane nor James would comment on how much the firms would invest in the joint venture.

Kleiner’s Ray Lane explained the opportunity as:

“Most electric vehicles being developed today are coming off the design board or getting manufactured, or starting to get test vehicles on the road. This is ready for mass production.”

RockPort’s James noted that the firms won’t just act as passive investors:

Being venture capitalists, we’re on the cutting edge of new battery technology, drivetrain technologies, and there will be an evolution of this car over the year. We’re actively involved in the process of rolling this out in North America.

Ray Lane thinks the size of the car will appeal to mainstream consumers: “The first thing you’ll notice is the space inside,” and he compared the Think City to the Toyota Yaris or Volkswagon Beetle. “Don’t think about this as being a Smart Car, which is frightening in terms of its size.”

Lane also is aiming at the jugular of the Prius and said: “Expect that we could also look at the hybrid market place; it doesn’t have to remain only battery.”

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  1. As a product manager, I would be concerned about building a brand with the Think City as the flagship. It lacks the visual and emotional appeal of the Smart Car… even if instant torque produces better city driving characteristics. Bring a little of the passion and performance of Tesla or Fisker to the masses… lead with the Think OX concept instead of the City! Until then, I wait for something like the Chevy Volt or Honda CRX concept.

  2. Environmental Capital – WSJ.com : Green Ink: Higher Oil, Higher Gas, Better Mileage? Tuesday, April 22, 2008

    [...] hybrids and which won’t be a niche product, either, reports the L.A. Times. More on the Think at Earth2Tech and Clean Break. The Mariners will play the first “carbon-neutral” game in Major League Baseball, [...]

  3. GM to Green Car Startups: We Plan to Win « Earth2Tech Friday, May 2, 2008

    [...] plans to start producing the Volt by 2010, but Think recently said that it will sell an electric vehicle in North America by 2009 for under $25,000 or “cheaper than the [...]

  4. Think Recharging With Big Funds for Electric Vehicles? « Earth2Tech Thursday, September 11, 2008

    [...] for distribution in Europe and the U.S. with that number jumping up to 10,000 in 2009. In April, Kleiner Perkins and Rockport formed the joint venture Think North America to handle distribution, and the VCs promised hundreds of TH!NK City cars for fleet operators would [...]

  5. Solar Feeds Gadgets » Think Recharging With Big Funds for Electric Vehicles? Friday, September 12, 2008

    [...] for distribution in Europe and the U.S. with that number jumping up to 10,000 in 2009. In April, Kleiner Perkins and Rockport formed the joint venture Think North America to handle distribution, and the VCs promised hundreds of TH!NK City cars for fleet operators would [...]

  6. Norway’s Electric Car Maker Think in Jeopardy « Earth2Tech Tuesday, December 16, 2008

    [...] City, and news of the shutdown could put a North American venture in question. In April, Think formed Think North America in partnership with its investors RockPort Capital Partners and Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & [...]

  7. San Francisco City CarShare Considering Think EV? « Earth2Tech Wednesday, February 18, 2009

    [...] with venture firms Kleiner Perkins and RockPort Capital Partners, and announced that partnership last April. But all of that was before Think ran into financing trouble earlier this year — yikes! [...]

  8. Kleiner Perkins’ Latest Green Car Play: The Anti-Fisker Friday, May 29, 2009

    [...] CEO Jan-Olaf Willums announced plans to bring Think’s electric City car to the U.S. at prices lower than the Toyota Prius through Think North America, a joint venture. At the time, Lane said, “Most electric vehicles [...]

  9. 9 Plug-in Cars Hitting the Road in 2010 Thursday, December 24, 2009

    [...] Think has long intended to bring its vehicles to the U.S., and last spring it formed a 50-50 North American joint venture, initially planning a U.S. launch for 2009 (financial troubles set it back). Now the company is [...]

  10. Think Picks Indiana for Electric Car Plant Tuesday, January 5, 2010

    [...] North America — a joint venture between Norwegian electric vehicle maker Think Global and U.S. venture firms Rockport Capital [...]

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