29 April 2012

Service center summary for Think EVs UPDATED

New Think EV owners in Maryland
At the moment I have information on four seven service locations for Think City EVs, one two on each coast and two in the Midwest, plus one in my home town.  I don't have details yet on the Auto Clinic in Portland Oregon, where 20 Thinks just arrived.  I hope to have more on them later.

From West to East:

Hawthorne Auto Clinic, Liz Dally and Jim Houser, co-owners:
4307 SE Hawthorne Blvd.
Portland, OR 97215
503-234-4230, fax
They've been in business here for 29 years and are real nice folks.

Bryant’s Auto Electric
Randy Bryant
1753 Grant St.
Santa Clara CA 95050
I have not spoken with Randy yet, and his web site is not ready as of today.  They do service only, not sales, if I understand.  Sales are handled by Jeff Speno at www.missionvalleytruckcenter.com.

Green Wheels Chicago
1540 N Western Ave
Chicago IL 60622
Green Wheels handles both sales and service. Possibly the lowest price if you live in a ZEV state.

Tom Wood Think, Indianapolis
3300 East 96th
Indianapolis IN
Excellent web site, full service and probably the first dealer in the US.  Several older video links including one shot inside the factory in Finland.

Eurostar Autos
9330 Liberty Road
Randallstown MD 21133
Eurostar will be getting service training soon, sales are ongoing.  Tom is very excited about Think EVs and the future model plans.

Buddy's Auto
3711 Philadelphia Road
Abingdon MD 21009-1182

Checking local charging stations in Maryland.  It is hard to see the black cord in front of the black car.
I should also give honorable mention to my local shop which replace my Power Conversion Unit (PCU) in our second Think City EV:

431 Battleground Ave.
Greensboro, NC 27401
(336) 274-7872 

Technically The Auto Trends might not be a fully authorized Think Service Center, since there are only four Thinks in Greensboro.  So it does not really warrant the cost of investing in the diagnostic tools.  But they did an excellent job replacing my PCU, which is nearly the most difficult job in this EV.  Think loaned us the tools, which have since been returned.

No worries about service

An excerpt from the Think service manuals.  Buying my own copy is now on my wish list.
When our second Think EV arrived the other day, we were surprised that the delivery driver left the window down.  My wife went to put the window up before the cats got inside, and came back saying the battery was low, the window would not go all the way up.  This did not sound right, since Doug at Green Wheels said the car left fully charged.

It turns out that if you put the key in the accessory position, the 400 volt traction battery is not yet charging the 12 volt accessory battery, which was a little weak from sitting through the bankruptcy last year when sales slowed.  No problem, I have a 12 volt battery charger that plugs into the "cigarette lighter" outlet, which is always on in the Think. I can use that to charge up the 12 volt battery until we get plates of the car on Monday.  After that, the 12 volt battery will be charged simply by driving or charging the traction battery (regular charging).

But for now I just "started" the car which begins charging the 12 volt battery, yet the window moved up very slowly. The passenger side window moved more quickly.  I tried the driver's side again, this time the motor apparently over-heated and stopped to cool off.

I have adjusted windows before, so I was not about to make a big deal out of this.  Especially since we paid less than half as much for this car as we did for the Think we bought last year, and Think North America had resisted selling me the first car because I was far from any authorized service center.  But I could not figure out how to get the door panel off.

I emailed Doug at Green Wheels Chicago and quickly received the service manual pages for the door panel.  As far as I can tell, Green Wheels was the first dealer to get factory service training for the Think, so I was not surprised that Doug had the manuals close at hand.

Removing the door pull cover
As it turns out, there is a cover in the door pull that is easily removed.  Under that, there are two screws, in addition to the usual perimeter fasteners.

Unscrewing the door pull fasteners (T15 Torx, if I recall)
The service manual warns that removing the seal under the door panel may destroy it, but apparently they upgraded to a high quality removable mastic, something like a "rope caulk", but stickier.  I was able to remove and replace the same liner without damage.  If it had been needed, I could have gotten another liner from the Elkhart factory.
Door seal under the panel
Once I had access, adjusting the window motor angle was easy.
Adjustable fasteners between window and motor
There are slots for the screws.  I set the window half way down, removed the screws to see where they wanted to line up.  In my case the optimum position was at the far right of the slots.

After this adjustment, the driver's window moves a bit faster than the passenger's window.  But I am not taking the passenger door apart. It is good enough and I suspect it will loosen up with use.

I want to look into buying the service manuals.  It was fascinating to browse the service documents, looking for the one I needed.  Many of the debug tools were updated as recently as last November, which simply confirms that work did not stop because of the bankruptcy.

I do not recall seeing the lifting points in the regular owner's manual, so when I saw that in the service manual, I felt it was a reasonable case of "fair use" to post those photos at the top of this entry, even though the service manuals are commercial documents.  Everyone needs to know how to lift the car when rotating the tires.  Lifting points should have been be shown in the owner's manuals.

In the end, a minor annoyance served to increase my confidence in owning two Think City EVs.

His and Hers

We are now a two Think household
Our second Think City EV was delivered a couple days back.  My wife was rather skeptical when we bought the blue Think last year, it was quite different from the Mini Cooper EV we had before.  On the down side the Think is not as quiet as the Mini EV, has a little less range, less power and less regenerative braking. 

On the up side, the Think has a huge amount of cargo space, absolute reliability, a very good heater, the seats are more comfortable, and surprisingly I find it handles better than the Mini EV did.  In one year and almost 10,000 miles of driving, I had the blue Think fuss at me about charging exactly twice.  Both times there was a good reason, such as being plugged into an old worn out timer.  The Mini EV fussed at me more than twice a week about charging, and for months during winter the Mini EV refused to charge at 240 volts at all.

Our new Think before it left the Elkhart Indiana factory.  Is that a battery pack in the background on the left?

I have had some questions from readers about whether there are any "gotchas" with the Think, and we struggled to think of anything more to say than the obvious (last year's bankruptcy) or the trivial (as noted above).  But then we remembered two things:

The sun visor has limited utility on the side.  The visor is rather short since the car is narrow, and the sloping windshield puts it fairly far away.  I have taken to keeping a wide brimmed hat in the car for those times when the sun bothers me.  I had forgotten about this, but it cannot quite be categorized as trivial.  On the other hand this is a city car, not likely to be taken on cross country trips often, where the sun can beat down relentlessly.  I hope the new Think model (next year?) will have a side visor.

The other issue we had briefly was a little trouble getting into reverse on rare occasions.  Once it became clear what was happening, I simply moved the shifter back and forth through all the virtual "gears" several times quickly and the problem disappeared.  I suspect there was some dust in the switch.

My car pool colleague and her husband wish they could buy an EV, but they cannot charge at their present apartment which has neither assigned parking nor outdoor power outlets
It is interesting to hear from people in Maryland who are buying EVs when they do not have a garage.  In one case, a home owner does have a reserved parking spot and is working with his Home Owners Association to get permission to have an electrician run power out to the assigned parking spot.

19 April 2012

If you are in Chicago...

This is what Green Wheels Chicago looks like. 
1540 North Western Avenue, Chicago, IL 60622 
Not sure if that is the view from the street.  
Their prices for the Think mentioned in my previous post include shipping.

18 April 2012

Stealth price reductions on 2011 Think City EV

Indianapolis Police Stealth Cruiser
If you live in one of the "ZEV" states and you are interested in buying one of the last ten or so 2011 models of the Think City EV, Call Doug at Green Wheels Chicago, 312 943 1500.  He tells me that he can sell his last few Thinks for $2000 below the price on his web site to buyers in those CARB states.  And his posted price is already the lowest I have seen.

The rest of us in non-ZEV states (me included) are not quite as lucky.  Oh Well.

Of course there is a $7500 Federal Tax deduction after that.  If you owe less than $7500, you get to deduct less but pay no income tax for the  year.  (No carry forward as I read it.)

My understanding of the ZEV discount is that states which conform to CARB rules require a certain number of zero emission cars to be sold in their states.  Pure EV companies such as Think, Tesla, Coda and the rest can actually sell their credits to the major auto makers.  Perhaps these credits go for $4000 lately?  I am not sure of the details, but I suspect it figures into their calculation of Corporate Average Fuel Economy and such.  Something like that, don't quote me please.

Anyway, this price drop came up in stealth mode, so to say.  Like the Indianapolis police department who uses there Think police cruiser to sneak up on suspicious activities.

Green Wheels Chicago got their factory service training from Think last year, along with service manuals and tools.  Anyone worried about parts should not worry, Doug can ship parts to you overnight if, say, that kid next door puts a rock through your windshield.  Elkhart Indiana will maintain parts stock, even if they don't produce the new models there.

17 April 2012

I am free! From maintenance, oil, etc.

We ordered our second Think City EV today, red this time.  It is about one year since we ordered our first blue Think, and the price is significantly lower due to the closeout of the 2011 models.

Of course, a lot has changed in the EV world since the photo above.  There are now many more Nissan EVs and Volt (mongrels?) on the road than there are Thinks or Teslas.  This is all good.  But how many of these other EVs have a proven track record, with a steady used market of ten year old models selling every day?  Here are some Norwegian used car listings for Think, and the translated version in English (but don't trust the distance and monetary units).  My understanding is that about 700 of the older fourth generation Think EVs are running around Norway, and many more scattered around Europe.  In Germany, the 4th gen Thinks are popular car to convert to Lithium Ion batteries from the original flooded NiCad.  The EV1 was a contemporary of the 4th gen Think, but we all know what happened to the EV1.

So I am proud to own a car (soon my wife will also) from the oldest dedicated EV maker on the planet, looking back on a history of reliability and forward to a future of new models, perhaps next year.  Everything I am hearing points to a promising future from a well capitalized company, now headquartered in Munich.  I wish I had something solid to report, maybe soon.  But the scuttlebutt makes me smile.

Don't get me wrong, I love the Volt.  We really thought about buying one.  But after almost 10,000 miles in our 5th gen Think EV with absolutely no maintenance, I really don't want to see another car with exhaust pipes, belts, pressurized hoses, alternators, EGR valves, spark plugs, toxic fuels, oil to be changed every few months, catalytic convertors, filters, on and on and on.

"I am free! ...And I am waiting for you to follow me" as The Who said so many years ago.

Well, I am following those people in the photo above, who are in Finland.  No, that is not the old factory in Aurskog Norway, nor Elkhart Indiana.

Freedom indeed.  On so many levels.  From noise.  From big oil.  From maintenance, that is the big one to me now.

05 April 2012

East Coast clearance price on Think EVs

Now the east coast is matching the same price as the west coast dealer for the remaining 2011 Think City EVs.  Euro Star Autos posted this at Plug In Cars today:

"We were able to close a contract with the remainder cars available for immediate delivery from THINK NORTH AMERICA. Cars are now priced at $15990 after government tax credits to eligible users. Most states have also excise tax incentives up to $2'000 so you might register it in your state without additional cost. This price is only available to the following ZEV CREDIT STATES and includes delivery to your house only if in mid Atlantic states ( courtesy of EUROSTAR automotive group ). Following are the ZEV CREDITS STATES : CALIFORNIA, CONNECTICUT, MAINE, MASSACHUSETTS, NEW JERSEY, NEW YORK, RHODE ISLAND, VERMONT, MARYLAND, NEW MEXICO AND OREGON
If interested in this now affordable price on this amazing electric car please contact Tom at 1-410-922-1100 or send an email to tomm@eurostarautos.com

20 cars arriving in our dealership in RANDALLSTOWN MD TUESDAY"

I spoke with Tom today, he is very positive about the future of Think under the new owner in Russia and the new engineering team in Munich.  Tom is quite confident of parts availability from the Elkhart Indiana facility.

I am not clear on the details of shipping outside of those eleven states that follow CARB rules.  From what I can tell, you can still buy a Think but there is a chance it will cost about $4000 more if registered outside of the CARB states listed above.  Again, I am not certain of this.

02 April 2012

Huge discount on 2011 Think City EV

The classified ads over at evfinder.com announced that the remaining 2011 Think City EVs from the Indiana factory are going on sale at a huge discount.  The link above refers to a base price (before the federal $7500 tax rebate) of $22300 for new Think City EVs with warranty.

I spoke with Jeff Speno at Mission Valley Ford today.  They will sell to buyers from outside of California.  I was not the first to ask.  (We do not yet know the shipping charges.)  With this heavy discount, the cars may not last long.

On the other coast, Eurostar Automotive Group is also discounting, although not quite as deeply.  Eurostar's webpage today claimed a base price of $26495, although I have not called them yet or checked details on delivery and such.  SEE UPDATE ABOVE, price now matched on east coast.

As I reported earlier, Green Wheels Chicago still is listing Think cars on their website, as does Clean Cities.