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Th!nk cars take to the streets of London

A landmark in the history of the small car will be reached next month, when 15 companies will receive keys to Th!nk cars under the new Th!nk @bout London sustainable mobility programme.

Companies running cars under the Th!nk @bout London project will pay £80 a month - the commercial rate is estimated to be about £300 a month. That will include delivery, service and maintenance, with operational support being provided by rental company Hertz UK.

Historically, electric cars have not been viable because of the high cost of batteries. But the Ford Motor Company claims to have cracked the puzzle with the car. Ford will not sell the cars, choosing instead to lease the vehicles on a three-year buy-back basis, largely because the cost of the batteries would make the purchase price prohibitive, and leave the vehicle an unknown quantity in the used car market.

The project has also received the backing of Friends of the Earth and the 15 cars are likely to carry FoE livery - a first.

Financial support for the project is coming from the Government's Transport Action PowerShift programme, which has agreed to provide funding towards the costs of 300 vehicles a year.

Each of the 15 companies, which must display proven environmental credentials, will run a Th!nk for 18 months before a further 15 companies, operating in the London area are selected for the second 18-month trial.

It is estimated that at least 100 Th!nk cars will be leased this year, and while London is the initial test area, Ford dealers and Hertz UK staff in Birmingham and Edinburgh are expected to be trained to handle the car in the near future, before the project is rolled out nationwide starting with the major cities.

Major Ford dealers will become Th!nk Centres with 10 metropolitan areas around the UK targeted as sales zones, although there will only be three in the first phase of development.

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