Think Restarts Electric Car Production, Pledges Deliveries by Christmas

For Norway-based electric car developer Think, 2009 has not been much of a glory year. But if the next few weeks go according to plan, the company — which restarted production of its compact Think City electric two-seater today — could end the year on a high note.

Today’s announcement that the cars are rolling off the assembly line at a Valmet Automotive plant in Finland comes about a year after Think hit the financial skids and had to halt production at its own Norway plant. Now CEO Richard Canny says Think is on track to deliver some vehicles to European fleet customers “before Christmas.”

The switch to produce the City vehicles at Valmet’s Finland plant instead of Think’s Norway facility came as part of a NOK 250 million (nearly $39 million) financing deal this summer. Valmet and Norwegian government-backed fund Investinor joined the round, and Ener1 (s HEV) (parent company of battery maker and Think supplier EnerDel) became the largest shareholder with a 31 percent stake.

Valmet hopes its role in Think City production will help pave the way to a leadership position in the electric vehicle manufacturing industry. In addition to producing cars like the Porsche Boxster and Cayman, Valmet has been contracted to produce the initial luxury plug-in hybrids from Fisker Automotive. (See our map of where the next generation of green cars will be built.) In August, Valmet said the Think City project — slated for volumes of “several thousands of cars per year” — would employ about 50 people by fall 2009 and more than 100 people in 2010.

Think’s top priority at this point is to deliver vehicles to its existing customers — the standing bank of 2,300 orders, according to a statement from Canny in today’s release. “Our next priority is to build on this order bank,” Canny said, “with continued expansion in Europe and around the world.”

In countries including Denmark, Spain and Norway, Think says it has launched sales of the electric two-seater — primarily to “municipal authorities and utility partners” — with support from government incentives.

For 2010, the company has its eye on the U.S. market, which Canny described earlier this year as “quickly overtaking Europe as an attractive market for EVs and is an ideal location to engineer and build EVs.”