Background on Th!nk Electric Vehicles - and the California Mandate

Nyhet - 24 august, 2004
Ford Motor Company is planning to destroy hundreds of no gasoline, zero emissions electric cars over the next few months, ultimately killing the entire zero emissions vehicle industry.

En rekke Th!nk-biler er allerede konfiskert av Ford

An historical review reveals that Ford’s commitment to electric zero emission vehicles, like the Th!nk, was nothing more than one strategy to comply with the strict clean air regulations in California. The other strategy was to lobby to undermine and weaken the legislation itself. When this finally succeeded, Ford quickly abandoned their highly promoted electric vehicle program, and is now planning to scrap the remaining Th!nk City vehicles that are in the USA.

In 2001, Ford began leasing the all-electric, super-efficient "Th!nk City" cars in order to meet its obligation under the California Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) mandate. Although few Th!nks were available, they were highly popular, especially among urban drivers in Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay Area. Within months, all 350 vehicles available at 5 Ford dealerships in California were leased and waiting lists developed. One hundred Th!nk City electric cars were also leased in New York as part of a NY Power Authority program. Ford announced that beginning in 2003, the Th!nk City would be available for purchase.

By 2002, every one of thousands of Zero Emission battery electric vehicles offered was successfully leased to overwhelmingly satisfied drivers, mostly in California, where state incentives for renewable energy allow many EV owners to recharge their cars using their own solar power. The cars included GM's EV1 and S10 EV pickup; Toyota's RAV4 EV; Honda's EV+; and Ford's Ranger EV pickup and Th!nk City.

In 2003, bowing to intense automotive industry lobbying and lawsuits, the California Air Resources Board eviscerated its ZEV Mandate postponing until the end of the decade the requirement for any Zero Emissions Vehicles. Upon this revision of the regulations, the automakers ceased producing electric cars, refused most requests for lease extensions, and refused all requests from leaseholders and the public to purchase the cars. Beginning in 2004, automakers have begun confiscating the vehicles in order to crush them. By 2005, if the automakers, including Ford Motor Company, have their way, nearly all the Zero Emission Electric Vehicles on the road in the USA today will be destroyed .

The Norwegian electric car manufacturer Elbil Norge has offered to accept all liability for the cars and repurchase them from Ford for resale in Norway, where the cars are quite popular and receive significant Government support. To date, Ford Motor Company has refused the offer and is beginning to repossess the Th!nks in order to destroy them. Greenpeace is campaigning to change Ford’s anti-environmental stand and save the Th!nk electric vehicles for further use and inspiration.

The famous and groundbreaking Californian Zero Emission Vehicle mandate (ZEV), instituted by CARB in 1990, was a radical challenge to the auto industry. 1% of sales by the major automakers must be ZEV by 1998; 10% by 2003. This would have required 10s of thousands of zero-gasoline, zero-emissions vehicles. The legislation kickstarted the automakers work to develop cleaner vehicles.

Overview over the history and undermining of the California ZEV mandate
1996 MOU eliminated the percentage requirement and established numbers of ZEVs to be put into service by the majors beginning in 1997. A few hundred to a few thousand per automaker depending on existing CA market share. Each major automaker produced electric cars to comply, all were successfully leased, and waiting lists existed for each model produced.

At the same time, a system began to rate cars' emissions, (ultra-low emission vehicle - ULEV; super-ultra-low emissions vehicle - SULEV) and the major were given varying credits for these cleaner gasoline cars, usually only available in California.

The Mandate was revised again to give car companies credit not only for highway capable cars, but for what came to be known as Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (NEV) - 25mph speed limited, no doors. That began a stampede by the majors to purchase golf cart companies and offer NEVs. In fact, in order to eliminate the need to actually make electric cars, they garnered sufficient ZEV credits by giving free leases for NEVs to Universities and municipalities.

In 2001, a GM/Chrysler lawsuit challenged parts of the revision industry had lobbied for as tredding on federal rights to regulate CAFE standards. The Production Electric Vehicle Drivers Coalition got surprise standing to testify, but the judge made a preliminary ruling in GM/Chrysler's favor in 2002 and CARB folded. No appeal.

Revisions in 2003 in response to the federal court added to the alphabet soup of categories to get ZEV credit, including the oxymoronic Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle (PZEV). That's a cleaner gasoline car. Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle (AT-PZEV). That's a cleaner gasoline-only hybrid.

The car companies made clear they had no further interest in battery electric cars, despite the demand and their technological success. Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, the automakers preferred path to ZEV, were given many times the credit of a battery car, despite the technology's immaturity, higher price, lack of infrastructure and relative inefficiency when compared with battery electrics. This ensured no further battery electric cars from the majors.

By the end of 2001, there were about 3,000 battery electric cars on California's road built to comply with the mandate. As of the latest revision, CARB will require 250 fuel cell ZEVs by 2008. This will replace the EV's, that will be withdrawn from the market and that the automakers plan to crush.

Short Think Story:
1990 PIVCO established in Aurskog, Norway
1994 Prototype debuts at Olympic Games in Lillehammer
1996 120 PIVCO City Bee electric cars produced.
1998 PIVCO goes bankrupt.
1999 51% of PIVCO sold to Ford, and becomes Th!nk.
2000 Ford begins production of Th!nk City.
2001 Ford begins leasing Th!nk City in California.
2002 Ford announces 2003 Th!nk City will be available for purchase.
2003 In wake of CARB's gutting of the ZEV requirement, Ford cancels its electric car programs and sells Th!nk Nordic to Kamcorp Corp.