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Ford drops Think while French launch 'air car'

In a turbulent week for the development of ultra clean transport, Ford Motor Company announced it was to pull the plug on its Think electric car division while one French firm was preparing to present its “air car” to business chiefs in London.

Ford's decision means the end of a chapter started by former chief executive Jac Nasser, who saw Norway-based Think as the natural focus for alternative fuel research. But poor customer demand and lack of support for electric vehicles finally killed the concept.

Ford bought Think in 1999 for around £15m - but it was the £60m Ford subsequently invested in electric vehicle battery technology that influenced last week's decision. Ford will now focus on fuel cell technology and hybrid petrol-electric vehicles.

Ford is expected to try and sell Think or work with the Norwegian government to make it a viable business. GM axed its EV1 electric car a few years ago after disappointing sales and consumer dissatisfaction about short range and long recharge time.

Meanwhile, a car that runs on compressed air is on its way to London. After 10 years in development, the French-made e.Volution “air car” is said to be close to volume production.

Driven by a 700cc engine, the machine will have a 125-mile range with a top speed of 68mph. Fuel is stored in a fibreglass tank, similar to ones used by scuba divers.

Drivers can refuel in about two minutes at filling stations using the tyre pump or over four hours via an electrically powered compressor. The average “fill up” is expected to cost about £2.

Four prototype versions are available - a flatbed truck, a taxi, a van and five-seater. Developed by Motor Development International, the engine is the brainchild of Guy Neagre, a former French Formula One engineer. The vehicle made its debut at Auto Africa Expo in 2000.

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