On a day when dozens of hot rods lined the streets in downtown Saline, a tiny, red plastic vehicle parked on South Ann Arbor Street stole the show at Summerfest.
The 2011 Think City, owned by Bruce Westlake and Linda TerHaar, is a zero-emissions battery electric car that goes more than 100 miles on a single charge and has a highway capable top speed of 70 miles and hour.
Just over five feet wide, five feet tall and 10 feet long and weighing in at 2,350 pounds, the Think City looks as like it could have been purchased at Toys-R-Us. Westlake, however, assures that it is a road-ready vehicle.
“It’s surprisingly smooth. It drives like a larger car,” said Westlake. “And it’s not that small. We haven’t been able to fill it up yet. You’re not going to take it to Home Depot and fill it with 2-by-4s, but there’s room for luggage and most things you’ll all around.”
The two-seater boasts 29 cubic feet of rear storage.
Westlake said it’s safe, too. THINK City meets all applicable U.S. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and has gone through extensive testing, including computer simulations, over 50 sled tests and more than 20 real crash tests, according to the manufacturer.
The Think City travels up to 70 miles per hour and can go 100 miles on a full charge, Westlake said. The couple frequently uses the vehicles on the freeway. Westlake has no complaints about its performance.
“Electric cars have good pickup. You don’t want to use it a lot because it drains the battery. But it handles well,” Westlake said.
The Think City can be plugged into a 110-volt outlet (the kind you might use for your dryer). It can take up to 18 hours to charge if completely worn down. Westlake also has a 220-volt outlet that charges twice as fast.. It takes him about eight hours to charge the vehicle if on the rare occasion the battery is completely drawn.
“Usually you just go run your errands and come home and plug in your vehicle and it’s just fine. It’s pretty rare to run the battery all the way down,” Westlake said.
Because of the 100-mile limit, trips require planning.
“You need to make sure you’ve got an option to plug in at your destination. If you look at your gage and you’re at 50 percent, if you aren’t half-way there, you better turn around,” Westlake laughed..
Planning trips is easier these days because more and more cities, like Saline, have an electric charge station (Saline’s is located in the parking lot behind Mac’s).
The Think City is the third electric vehicle for Westlake and TerHaar. They also have a 1999 Ford Ranger and a Ford Escape hybrid plug-in.
The Think City was produced in Elkhart, Ind., by a Norwegian company known as Think Global. Originally, the vehicles cost $42,000. But the market wasn’t there and the price dropped. Westlake said the vehicles can be purchased for $22,500. Buyers can also get a $7,500 tax credit.
The Think City received a lot of attention in the few hours it was parked at Summerfest.
“People love it. It’s a neat looking car and people are becoming more and more interested in electric vehicles,” Westlake said.
He said their Think City is one of just three in Michigan.
“We can’t sneak around town with this. People recognize the car pretty quickly,” Westlake said.
Westlake and TerHaar like electric vehicles because they’re concerned about the environment. But there are also cost savings involved. Westlake estimated he’s charging his vehicles for a third of what he’d pay to fuel a gas-fired vehicle. It costs him about $32 a month to charge his vehicles.
For more information on the Think City, visit http://thinkev.leftbankcompanies.com/why-think-city/faq/.