Small is Beautiful

The Norwegian Th!ink City Electric car

I just came back from the Exxon-Mobile service station in my neighborhood, and these are their posted prices:

  • Light Diesel: $3.72 per gallon.
  • 95 Octane Gasoline: $3.89 per gallon.
  • 91 Octane Gasoline: $3.73 per gallon.

At these sky-reaching prices, there isn’t any other rational option, but to take a bus. If this option is too hard for you, considering the terrible conditions of Panama buses, then sell your car—if you can—and buy yourself a midget car or a Chinese scooter. This is exactly what many Panamanians are doing to make ends meet. Car buyers are thinking small.

As crude oil prices are heading North, the size of mainstream automobiles are shrinking. More and more, I’m seeing smaller cars on Panama streets. Some of them are so small, they look like fleas. This post is about a small electric car manufactured by a Norwegian company designed for people with tight pockets.

The Th!ink City is a 2 + 2 children seats, electric car with a 124 miles range and top speed of 62 miles per hour priced between $15,000 to $17,000, made from 95 percent recyclable materials and available in the U.S. by 2009. I have no idea when it will marketed in Panama.

Think plans to sell the car but lease the battery as a way to overcome one of the biggest conundrums of electric cars. The battery is by far the most expensive component of the City, which will list for about $34,000 in Norway. Take the battery out of the equation, and Think can sell the car for about $15,000 to $17,000 in the United States, with a “mobility fee” of $100 to $200 a month that might also include services like insurance and wireless Internet access.

This energy-efficient automobile is the product of Norwegian firm Th!nk Global, an auto manufacturer interested in assembling its cars in Southern California. Th!nk Global is thinking big. Their goal is to manufacture between 30,000 to 50,000 units within a few years. The Th!nk City is currently produced in Norway and international sales are slated to begin in Scandinavia, with Switzerland and France also being the initial focus areas. Sales, other than initial trial and demonstration projects, will begin in the North American market in 2009.

What’s in it for me? Most of us don’t drive more than 40 miles a day, and small cars are optimally suited for congested city driving. Those of you who have been down to Panama City, know that the city stretches like a long and narrow string with extremely congested street. Bumper-to-bumper driving is the rule of law. Getting 124 miles per gallon is a strong buying attraction.

Th!nk City demands very little of you. In fact, not much more than a mobile phone. Just an overnight power top-up, and it’s ready to go in the morning. It can travel up to 200 kilometers (124 miles) in city driving on a fully charged battery, with a top speed of 62 miles per hour. It’s fun, clean and simple.

Safety-wise, the Th!nk City meets the strict safety requirements of both Europe and the U.S. as a highway-safe road car. ABS brakes, airbags, side-impact bars, and an advanced frame designed to absorb energy and distribute it away from the passenger’s compartment make it another blow to the myth that bigger cars are inherently safer.

If recent sales trends toward smaller vehicles are any indication (sales of Toyota Yaris up 70 percent), the Th!ink City could be very popular when released in the U.S. Auto sales in the United States during the last three months have been down, except for the smaller, cheaper and not-so-thirsty cars, with starting prices from $12,000 to $14,000, according to a recent article from USA Today.

Yep, small is beautiful! Just ask your wallet. 🙂

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