Fleet News

Ford Th!nk

Ford

Review

WHAT costs about 40p to fill up, has zero emissions, is free of Vehicle Excise Duty, will escape road tolls in London and qualifies for free parking in the capital? Answer: the two-seat Th!nk city car, hailed by the manufacturer as a totally viable urban car.

There are limitations - its range prior to recharging is limited to 53 mph. But 85% of city trips are less than six miles, and the average daily driving distance is just 35 miles. Half of all European car journeys are under two miles and 70% of all car journeys are in city areas, according to Jacob Alkil, marketing and sales chief of Th!nk Europe.

The car attracts significant interest but it is distinctive, not ridiculous. Available in 10 colours, its polyethylene body panels are interchangeable. At 2.99 metres long, the two-seater Th!nk is 49 cms longer than the Smart and around half the length of a Peugeot 406 and despite its size, I didn't feel vulnerable to other vehicles on the road. With perky acceleration of 0-30 mph in seven seconds and a top speed of 56 mph, the car is a zippy star around city areas.

Despite its lack of power steering, the car is easy to drive around buses and taxis and into tight car parking spaces. Although lacking some of the home comforts of company cars - no electric windows, sunshine roof or air conditioning - our test car did have alloy wheels, radio/ CD, seatbelt pre-tensioners and a driver's airbag.

Recharging couldn't be easier. Pull into one of the free parking bays in MasterPark's Marble Arch (traditionally fuelled cars pay £22 per 24-hour stay here), take the recharging lead out of the boot and plug into the wall socket and the car's bonnet. The Th!nk can be recharged for 40p in seven hours off mains electricity at home or the office, using a normal three point plug.

Only a sequence of lights on the dashboard indicates the ignition is 'on' as the car is silent. Drivers will get a CD of driving instructions with the car, the final track being 'motoring sounds' in case they miss the noise of the engine!

Ford believes that, with the Th!nk car, it has cracked previous problems associated with electric vehicles. Unlike electric vehicles such as the Peugeot 106 or the Citroen Berlingo, the Th!nk has been developed around the nickel cadmium battery located in the centre of the car, beneath the two seats.

Therefore, the Th!nk is not a petrol or diesel car converted to battery power. Similarly the Th!nk, while certainly head-turning, is a viable two-seater with boot space – and not some outlandish user-unfriendly vehicle. With its aluminium and steel frame and seven removable polyethylene body panels, it is estimated that the Th!nk has a usable life of 80 years, although the batteries have a 10-year lifespan. About 95% of the car is recyclable.

Built at the Ford-owned Th!nk plant in Norway the list price of the Th!nk will be between Ford Fiesta and the Ford Focus when the car is officially launched in the UK next year.

And, while only left hand drive versions are presently available, hopes are high that fleet demand for Th!nk will lead to right hand drive versions being produced. So is the Th!nk City Car, which won this year's Special Vehicle Award in the Fleet News Awards, going to save the planet?

That is stretching a point too far. But three organisations - courier company DHL (two cars), advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather (two cars) and Southampton City Council (one car) - have added the TH!NK to their fleets and September 11 is the next key landmark in the short history of the car.

Model: Th!nk City electric car (two seater)
Dimensions: 2.99m/9.8ft long, 1.6m/5.25ft wide, 1.56m/5.1ft high)
Luggage capacity: 350 litres
Top speed: 56 mph
0-30 mph: 7 seconds
Range (city driving): 53 miles
Max power: 36 bhp
Propulsion batteries: nickel cadmium
Recharging time (100%): seven hours from normal 220v-240v wall socket
Battery weight: 250 kg
Emissions: zero
UK specification: TBA
Price: £11,000 (est) but only available on lease

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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