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Electric car maker Think returns from bankruptcy, again

Image (1) think-secures-new-investment-and-is-set-to-resume-production-of-the-thnk-city_large.jpg for post 123456

Norway-based electric-car maker Think announced today it was purchased by one of its investors after the company filed for bankruptcy last month, the company’s third trip to bankruptcy courts in its 20-year history.

Boris Zingarevich, a Russian timber baron and investor, was named by a court-appointed trustee as the winning bidder for Think. Zingarevich is also is the principal investor of U.S. lithium-ion battery maker Ener1. After Think failed to raise new investments and sought bankruptcy, Ener1 – which supplied lithium-ion batteries to the carmaker – took a huge impairment charge on loans it made to Think.

The Think City, an all-electric sedan, carried a price tag of around $34,000, putting it on par with the Nissan Leaf. It also travels around 100 miles before needing to recharge — equivalent to the distance the Nissan Leaf can travel. Think will now be a part of a new company called Electric Mobility Solutions, and is effectively rescued.

The company faced some pretty stiff competition, given that the Leaf has taken the lead in the small market for electric-car early adopters. Not only did Think struggle with the tremendous upfront cost to manufacture an electric car, it also competed with two popular cars — the Chevy Volt and the Nissan Leaf — sold by major manufacturers in the same price range.

“There is room for more specialty vendors of city EVs, but not at the original price listed,” Pike Research analyst John Gartner told VentureBeat. “Prices have to be at least as low as the leading known brands such as Mitsubishi.”

Nissan has taken the lead in the small, but fiercely competitive, low-end electric car market. In the first half of 2011, Nissan sold 3,875 Leafs, while GM sold 2,745 Volts. In June alone, after GM pulled back on its Volt supply to supply dealers with more demonstration cars, the carmaker sold 561 Volts. Nissan, meanwhile, sold 1,708 Leafs in June.

But both car companies have been unable to keep up with demand from early adopters for electric cars, which has been tremendous, Gartner said. That means there is room for a company like Think to sneak in and steal potential customers from General Motors and Nissan.

“Demand for pure electric vehicles from early adopters has exceeded production from GM and Nissan, so alternative companies have a window during the next few years to be a part of the expanding market,” he said. “However, more delays and continued financial problems could narrow or close that relatively short window of opportunity.”

Most electric car buyers are more concerned about how long it takes to charge the car and how far it is able to drive than the actual price of the electric car, according to a report by Accenture. Pure plug-in electric cars are typically limited in how far they will go on a charge, and they can take a long time to recharge.