The $16k, 100-mile EV You’ve Been Dreaming of!

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Th!nk may be close to being unplugged but their bankruptcy has produced a stellar opportunity for the aspiring EV driver.

The first crop of production EVs are all vehicles priced higher than the average vehicle.  So was the Th!nk City EV but in a bid to raise some cash to keep the doors open they’ve decided to blow out the existing stock of Indiana-built Citys and start over.

Fortunately, a dealer here in Baltimore saw the opportunity and bought nearly the whole lot of more than 100 cars.  I joined friends from EVA/DC John and Lanny one afternoon recently to try the Th!nks out.  As it turns out, I’m the only one of the three that hasn’t bought one yet.

On a test drive in rush hour traffic and then winding through some backroads, the City felt stable and solid.  Unperturbed by bumps and aided by the low center of gravity imparted by the underslung battery pack, carving through the woods on a freshly paved two lane was way more fun than the cuteness of its upright styling promises.  Torque off the line was especially impressive and the Th!nk should excel in the cut and thrust of the urban grid.  Surplus power tapers off significantly above 50mph, encouraging judicious speed management on the highway.  The Th!nk tops out at 70mph and a few days later I actually paced an example that had its windows cracked open cruising at this speed up a slight incline.

Some may be disappointed that there’s no LED lightshow instrument panel but the analog dial simplicity has a charm in keeping with the Think’s design philosophy.  Switchgear and controls come from the Ford parts bin and so spares should be easy and inexpensive to source.  The only element that felt less than durable were the window switches with their short, crackly motion.  The dash is covered with a textured fabric on both the top and lower surfaces, a distinguished touch that’s uncommon in any class of car.  I prefer seats with a bit more lumbar support but an aftermarket pad should remedy that if you feel the same way.  Controls are all smooth and require modest effort though the lack of a dead pedal bugged me.  It’s nice to have somewhere to put that idle left foot, though the handy will certainly fabricate a solution.  Construction is rudimentary yet solid (check out the picture of the aluminum hatch hinge), there were no squeaks and rattles and as long as you didn’t turn your head to check out the cargo area, it feels like a slightly larger car such as a Scion xA, but without the noise, harsh ride and vibration that makes most small cars in general feel cheap.  Unfortunately, the rear jump seats and fabric roof available on the European models isn’t certified for the US so the Th!nk is strictly a two-seater hardtop.

One very clever feature is the glass hatch that allows bumper-level view of the vehicle behind while parallel parking.  Combined with the Th!nk’s short length, there should be only a handful of spaces on the planet in which this car can’t park.

From the outside, the Th!nk may look small but when I happened to come upon one a few days later on the B-W Parkway I was surprised how seamlessly it blended into traffic.  Coincidentally a Smart car came along in a neighboring lane and seeing them side-by-side, the Th!nk’s proportions are far more harmonious.

Having driven the Smart ED as well (was marketing really so stupid as to append “ED” to a car already perceived as lacking in the cojones department?), they both have a similarly solid and stable feel but the Th!nk manages to have a substantially longer range (100mi v. ~60mi) and of course costs much less.  The Smart is more luxuriously appointed and has more options available, like a fabric roof, but at the cost of a $600/mo. lease payment.  The Smart was never available to buy either so if you’ve just come off your Smart ED lease, the Th!nk is a very economical way to continue electric motoring.

The Th!nk City turned out to be just the car John and Lanny were waiting for and they each took one home soon after.  I can’t blame them, at this price point there are not many new cars available, EV or not, period.  To be able to acquire an EV as capable and competent as the Th!nk for the offered price must be the deal of the year.

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About Suhas Malghan

Inspired by the kinetic, this blog documents the design and development of environmentally sustainable machines and the overarching issue of humane design practices in general; machines that work for humanity as well on the move as they do sitting still.
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