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Electric car company filing for bankruptcy

June 22, 2011

The electric car maker that launched its North American operations in northern Indiana has filed for bankruptcy protection in Norway, a major creditor said Wednesday morning.

Think Global AS plans to liquidate its assets, according to a statement from its exclusive battery supplier, Ener1 Inc.

Ener1, which engineers and makes its batteries in the Indianapolis area at its EnerDel subsidiary, notified investors Wednesday that the company would take a charge of more than $32 million on unpaid loans and accounts receivable from Think Global.

Think’s spokesman in Detroit, Brendan Prebo, could not be reached for comment Wednesday morning.

"I think the car is quickly becoming a historic footnote," said J. William Moore, publisher and editor of the Nebraska-based EV World, which covers the electric vehicle industry. "There's a whole bunch of big, serious competitors hitting the market soon."

Think's sputtering performance has already dragged down Ener1's stock price, but it's not clear what affect the bankruptcy will have on the company. Spokesman Brian Sinderson would not answer a question about the impact on local operations. He issued a statement via email this morning saying, “Ener1 estimates that the amount of the charge is $32.6 million, although the amount could change based on the extent to which funds are recovered as a result of the liquidation of Think Global.”

Think hasn't sold nearly as many cars in North America as it hoped, and early this year asked Ener1 to stop shipping batteries while it worked through a backlog of cars at the Elkhart assembly plant. That contributed to layoffs at Ener1's local operations.

Then, in May, New York-based Ener1 told investors it would write off its $73 million stake in Think, a move that sent its share price to new lows.

Ener1 months ago shifted its focus from supplying batteries for electric cars to utility energy storage. The Mount Comfort assembly plant has been turning out battery packs for the Russian electric grid. Ener1 announced on June 16 a deal with JSC Mobile GTES, a subsidiary of the Federal Grid Company in Russia, which could lead to more manufacturing work in the future.

Think Global opened its Elkhart factory last year with hopes of producing 2,500 autos per year initially and employing 415 people by 2013.

Shares of Ener1 Inc. were down a penny each this morning, to $1.35, well off the 52-week high of $4.60 per share it hit late last year.

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