Ford Motor Dumps Electric Vehicle

by William Yeatman on September 3, 2002

in Blog

Ford Motor Co.s Th!nk electric car division is going the way of the Edsel. The company cites poor consumer demand and lack of government support for its decision to pull the plug.

Ford bought the Norway-based Th!nk in 1999 for $23 million and invested an additional $100 million to develop electric vehicle battery technology. “The bottom line is we dont believe that this is the future of environmental transport for the mass markets,” said Ford spokesman Tim Holmes. Instead, Ford will focus on developing fuel cell and hybrid gasoline-electric cars.

Fords thinking has undergone a rapid evolution recently, apparently due to mounting financial losses. Chairman William Clay Ford, Jr., a long-time environmentalist, began his tenure with several high profile environmental statements and commitments. For example, he pledged that Ford would increase the mileage of its SUVs by 25 percent in five years.

But economic realities now have him singing a different tune. He has begun appearing in Ford television commercials touting the companys powerful trucks, oohing and aahing over the Mustang, old and new, and claiming that he has gasoline in his veins.

Shortly after Governor Gray Davis signed into law a bill that would regulate greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles, Mr. Ford appeared conciliatory, saying that he wanted to “lower the temperature” between the automobile industry and California regulators and that the states “love affair with the auto industry has grown stale.” But the company is now distancing itself from those statements. Ford spokeswoman Francine Romine said that the company still opposes the California emissions bill and that it is still considering participation in an Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers lawsuit against it (Greenwire, August 12, 2002).

The “Th!nk City” vehicle is a two-seater, with a plastic body, has a range of 53 miles and takes six hours to recharge. Moreover, it costs much more than similarly-sized vehicles. “Battery electric vehicles are not there yet technologically,” according to Jim Kliesch, a research associate with the nonprofit the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. “Nobody has found a way to build a battery that is cheap, can quickly recharge and allows you to drive long distances” (Reuters, August 30, 2002).

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