Saturday, May 29, 2010

Th!nk Test Drive

From Th!nk Test Drive

I'm in Oslo, Norway at present and got an opportunity to test drive the wonderful Th!nk city car. This car is all electric - not a hybrid, using no fuel of any kind - and produces zero emissions.

Down at the Aker Brygge area - a redeveloped wharf district teaming with locals and tourists, numbers swelled by the Eurovision Song Contest being held here - a number of car vendors had their wares on display.

I spoke to Amelie of Rohneselmer who was standing next to a pair of Th!nk City cars - one red and one black, and was offered the chance for a test drive! Of course I said yes! A work colleague, who luckily knew the streets better than I came along for the ride.

Amelie took me to the nearby park and handed me the keys. Like any modern car, it had a remote for the rear hatch and for the doors. Also on there was a mysterious silver key that I was later to discover to be very useful.

The start sequence got me first time - unlike the Prius where you simply turn it on, the Th!nk has a traditional key-lock, and you turn it like a petrol car to a spring-loaded ignition position, until the car has powered up, then leave the key to return to the drive position.

After that bit of difficulty mastering the powerup sequence, I was off. The wharf area was chock full of twisty streets, cobbles and hazards, crossings and gotchas - the light, nimble Th!nk went exactly where I pointed it, and with no gear shift to worry about I was able to quickly negotiate my way onto some broader streets.

Here the cars pep really showed up the gas guzzlers, leaping away from the lights before the neighbouring BMW's and Vovlo's. Its smaller size meant that gaps were easy to take, plus a great turning circle, and very good visibility out the copious glass made me feel confident around the city streets.

Soon we found our way into a lot of small cobbled streets with sidewalk cafes, and families out enjoying the city. It felt great to roll down the window, and quietly and cleanly roll along with them, while smelly noisy gasoline cars really didn't seem to belong here.

Then out onto the civic streets again - where I wanted to try out charging. The test car only came with one charger - I suspect that any Th!nk owner would have a number. The stock one looks suitable for a garage and has a control unit that allows for stowing the cords around it, plus some controls and indicator lights. It looks as tho' it could either mount on a wall or lay on the floor.

After some early showers the weather had fined up, and the charging set up was quick and painless to set up. If you were going to be parked for some time, then an all weather charger would probably be needed. Other cars seemed to just have a plain cord that ran straight from the charging bollard to the cars socket.

The highway speed was something I did not get to try out, but Amelie tells me its good for highway speeds without any trouble.

The range question was asked. The current model had a sodium based battery, but newer cars are coming out with a Lithium-Ion battery chemistry and a claimed 160km range. These cars are just becoming available and are priced at 244,000KR, around $48,000 Australian dollars. This is the extra cost of the longer range batteries which come fully paid up - not a subscription or lease model of purchase.

However in Norway you have set against that purchase cost, a huge range of incentives thrown in by the local authorities - who despite being an oil producing nation are keen to see their cities clear of pollution.

As the driver of a Th!nk City EV in Oslo you get:
  • free parking in city and other parks
  • free charging at public charge points
  • reduced and free taxes, registration and charges
  • free travel on the ferries
  • toll roads, bridges and so on are free
  • use of bus, taxi and transit lanes
And of course you never have to pay for petrol ever again! Plus you're saving the planet and making the air easier to breathe.

As their logo has it "Green means go!".

I want one - maybe two!