Saving the Think Electric Vehicle

Why Are EVs Important?

To break our oil addiction, we need to embrace existing solutions such as electric vehicles. Electric vehicles offer a glimpse into what a completely petroleum-free Mirror Finish auto fleet could look like. EVs plugged into solar panels have allowed drivers across California to live free from fossil fuels.

Why Did Ford Produce the Th!nk EV?

In 2001, Ford began producing and leasing the Norwegian-built all-electric, zero-gasoline “Th!nk City” cars in order to meet the requirements of the California Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) mandate.

The Californian Zero Emission Vehicle mandate (ZEV), passed by the State of California in 1990, was a radical challenge to the auto industry. One percent of sales by the major automakers were required to be ZEV by 1998; ten percent by 2003. This would have required tens of thousands of zero-gasoline, zero-emissions vehicles. The legislation jumpstarted the automakers’ development of cleaner vehicles.

Although few Th!nks were available in 2001, they were highly popular, especially among urban drivers in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area. Within months, all 350 Th!nk vehicles available at five Ford dealerships in California had been leased and waiting lists had developed. State incentives for renewable energy in California allow many EV owners to recharge their cars using their own solar power.

Why Did Ford Destroy Them?

In 2003, the California Air Resources Board gave into intense automotive industry lobbying and gutted the ZEV Mandate. Upon this revision of the regulations, Ford ceased producing electric cars, refused most requests for lease extensions, and refused all requests from lessees to purchase the cars. Furthermore, Ford announced plans to confiscate and crush the existing 350 Th!nk City vehicles.

The Norwegian government asked Ford to save the Th!nks and began to seek a way to get the cars back to Norway for resale. The Th!nk EVs were the first mass produced car in Norwegian history and have become a national symbol of pride and progress for the role they play in reducing air pollution and ending oil addiction. Ford Motor Company initially ignored Norway’s efforts and began to repossess and crush the Th!nks.

How Did We Save Them?

Global Exchange, Greenpeace, and Rainforest Action Network teamed up to demand that Ford not crush the vehicles, but rather return them to Norway.

In an action coordination by GX and RAN, two Th!nk vehicles draped in American flags were turned in under protest in San Francisco, while Greenpeace activists in Norway hung a banner from Ford’s Norway headquarters.

Following these protests, Ford announced that it would stop crushing the cars and send them back to Norway. The decision marked an abrupt u-turn by Ford.