Isn’t it good Norwegians would

An electric car is what we chiefly need. So someone has to do the hard work and develop it. Glad that the Norwegians would. [1].

A story in Business Week talks about an innovative Norwegian company, Think Global, that is producing electric cars that make sense:

An electrified people’s car for the 21st century, the Ox is a preview of Think’s next-generation production vehicle, due out in 2011. Roughly the size of a Toyota (TM) Prius, the Ox can travel between 125 and 155 miles before needing a recharge, and zips from zero to 60 miles per hour in about 8.5 seconds. Its lithium-ion batteries can be charged to 80% capacity in less than an hour, and slender solar panels integrated into the roof power the onboard electronics. Inside, the hatchback includes a bevy of high-tech gizmos such as GPS navigation, a mobile Internet connection, and a key fob that lets drivers customize the car’s all-digital dashboard. Pricing has yet to be announced, but the company’s current vehicles cost less than $25,000.

Although little-known, Think North America is backed by an undisclosed amount from Silicon Valley venture capital firms RockPort Capital Partners and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, which famously invested early in companies such as Amazon.com (AMZN) and Google (GOOG). General Electric (GE) made an unrelated $4 million investment in March to support the company’s battery research and development operations.

Norway is a small country of less than 5 million people. In terms of population, it is about the size of Pune, or about 0.4 percent of India. The Indian population density is 330 people per sq km compared to Norway’s 12 per sq km. Of course, Norwegians are fabulously rich compared to India. They export oil — is the world’s third largest oil exporter after Russia and Saudi Arabia. Be that as it may, I believe that there is a more interesting difference between the two countries: they think differently.

They are not producing stuff that would have been alright for a world of the past, say, nice little petrol-powered cars. They are producing what is undoubtedly meant for the future. So why is it that a population around 250 times that of Norway’s can’t do what the Norwegians do?

Inquiring minds would like to know.

Will I be asking a similar question a few years down the road: why did not India invest in R&D in solar energy when much smaller countries have done so?

[Changed the title from “Norwegian Would” to “Isn’t it good Norwegians would” just because I am clever like that 🙂 ]

Notes:

1. “Norwegian Wood” is one of my all-time Beatles favorite song.

6 thoughts on “Isn’t it good Norwegians would

  1. lurker Friday June 20, 2008 / 2:13 pm

    You would be interested in looking at this link also, regarding electric cars and the initiative take by Shai Agassi and group called the Project Better Place

    http://www.projectbetterplace.com/

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  2. pankaj Friday June 20, 2008 / 2:29 pm

    Atanu you will be asking the same way as i am asking that why did not india’s rulers do something about primary education and most importantly Population Control.

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  3. lurker Friday June 20, 2008 / 2:38 pm

    There was a company called Reva which actually released a battery operated car in Indian market, but did not get much newsprint. After a few years of releasing the car, it got some publicity when (as far as I remember) Akshaye Khanna bought one ( even he did not know that a battery operated car exists in Indian market, when he learnt he decided to buy that).

    So, people are trying, but the endeavors are individualistic almost

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  4. lurker Friday June 20, 2008 / 5:19 pm

    The problem with electric cars is that they still need require roads. This brings up two serious problems: first, for cars to be reasonably effective means of urban transit, roughly 50% of the surface area of a city must be devoted to driving surfaces. (In some American cities, such as Phoenix, Arizona, the number actually exceeds 60%). Given the tremendous density of existing Indian cities, this is not really feasible. China has been able to accomplish this feat via the forced clearances of many millions of people, but in India I don’t see this as a possibility (thank goodness).

    The second problem is that the roads must not only exist, but be designed in a well-structured hierarchy of motorways, arterial roads, capillary streets, and so forth. This isn’t something that can develop organically; it requires very high levels of centralization, competency, and capital. I would not hold my breath waiting for the government to suddenly acquire these traits.

    What would be ideal is if there were a transportation system that could be built into the existing urban fabric, without causing displacements — and could be built in a piecemeal, ad-hoc fashion, by various independent public and private agents. As long as we’re dreaming, it would be nice if such a system required far less energy than cars, and could be built for less money than automotive infrastructure.

    Such a system exists, and this is what it looks like:

    I’m working on bringing it to India.

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  5. Amit Friday June 20, 2008 / 7:37 pm

    There was a documentary that came out couple of years ago, titled ‘Who Killed the Electric Car?’ Quite an interesting film on how electric cars introduced in CA were pulled out of circulation and destroyed by the car companies.

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  6. Notsure Saturday June 21, 2008 / 6:56 am

    @lurker #4
    Good point regarding road infrastructure cost too.
    I do think that in old north indian cities Jaipur, ludhiana type cities electric mini tram like stuff would be effective.
    Regarding Ox, It is one of nearly 100 such firms that are getting attention.
    Sadly not 1 with an indian R&D or sales operation.

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