Natural Life                    January 12, 2000             

Ford Launches LIne of Electric Vehicles

Ford of Canada introduced its new TH!NK Group brand at the North American International Auto Show this week in Detroit. The new organization will provide "innovative solutions for personal mobility", positioning Ford to develop and market a full line of environmentally responsible vehicles.

In 1999, Ford became the first auto maker in Canada to sell electric vehicles. As part of the Montreal 2000 Electric Vehicle Project, customers in the province of Quebec, including utility giant Hydro-Quebec and the city of Montreal, bought a fleet of 16 zero-emission Ford Ranger EV production models, now being evaluated in fleet usage.

Terry Spyropoulos, Ford of Canada brand manager for alternative fuel vehicles, who is also the new TH!NK Group brand manager in Canada, says, "Electric vehicles are ideal in stop-and-go city driving because they produce zero tailpipe emissions and offer reduced maintenance and improved energy efficiency over the gasoline engine."

Ford’s new line of zero-emission vehicles includes the battery-powered electric vehicle called TH!NK city, which went into production in November 1999 in Norway and is currently being sold throughout Scandinavia. A North American version of the TH!NK city is under development and will be available within the next two years.

TH!NK city provides comfortable transportation for two adults and is designed for urban driving, with a real-world driving range of approximately 85 kilometres, a 0-to-50 km/h time of seven seconds and a top speed of 90 km/h. It is powered by a liquid-cooled three-phase alternating current-induction motor. The motor is powered by 19 nickel-cadmium (NiCad) batteries – also water-cooled for maximum performance - generating approximately 11.5 kilowatt hours of energy.

For easy recharging, TH!NK city uses a conductive charging system. Customers can plug directly into any 220-volt/16 amp outlet and recharge the car through an easily accessible outlet just under the windshield. It takes approximately eight hours to fully charge a drained battery and five hours to attain an 80 percent charge at 220 volts. Most of the vehicle is recyclable, including its NiCad batteries and thermoplastic body panels.

Another new Ford vehicle unveiled this week is the TH!NK neighbor   – a compact two- or four-seat personal mobility, low-speed vehicle. Designed for commuting within self-contained communities, resorts or work environments, the battery-powered, 5000 watt DC motor TH!NK neighbor can attain speeds up to 40 kilometres per hour. Possible applications include meter reading, by-law enforcement, on-campus transportation, on-site security, indoor plant shuttle or transportation in parks. Manufacturer's suggested retail price is expected to be approximately US$6,000.

The electric vehicle line will also include the TH!NK bike fun and the TH!NK bike traveler, both electric bicycles that combine the exercise and mobility offered by a standard bicycle with the option of power-assisted cycling at the flick of a switch.

TH!NK bike fun has a rigid frame, while TH!NK bike traveler has a compact, foldable frame featuring a simple, three-step folding procedure, making it easy to store and transport. Both models are expected to be available this summer in Canada and the United States. Power to the 24-volt, 400-watt motor for the TH!NK bike fun and the 24-volt, 250-watt motor for the TH!NK bike traveler is provided by an easy-to-remove, lead-acid battery pack stored under the seat.

Charging is quick and easy, requiring only up to four hours from a standard home outlet. A portable direct-current charger is also available for recharging from a primary vehicle or other 12-volt power source. This charging method takes about eight hours for a fully discharged battery. The standard drive system is a single-speed, direct-link transmission located near the pedal sprocket area. An optional two-speed unit is available for greater flexibility and efficiency. Range before recharging is needed, is about 50 kilometers for TH!NK bike fun and about 29 to 32 kilometers for TH!NK bike traveler. Top speed is 25 km/hour.

The suggested retail price is expected to be about US$1,000 for TH!NK bike fun and about US$1,200 for TH!NK bike traveler. Canadian consumers will have a short wait (estimated at approximately six months) for TH!NK bikes while Transport Canada completes development of a power-assisted bicycle regulation that will permit their sale.

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