Norway electric carmaker raises $40 million

SAN FRANCISCO, May 10 (Reuters) - Norwegian electric car maker Think Global said on Monday it plans to launch its vehicles in the United States this year and has raised $40 million from existing shareholders to fund operations.

The new round of financing, which all of Think’s major shareholders participated in, was oversubscribed, Chief Executive Richard Canny told Reuters.

Canny said venture capital fund Rockport Capital has now become the electric carmaker’s second-largest shareholder with the latest round of financing.

The largest shareholder remains lithium-ion battery maker Ener1 HEV.O, which has a 31 percent stake in the company, he added.

Ener1 Chairman and CEO Charles Gassenheimer was named chairman of the Think’s board on Monday, replacing Reidar Langmo, who is now the vice chairman.

Ener1 also has a battery supply agreement with Think.

The financing will help “fund the European operation through until break-even,” Canny said. “We will use the funds to accelerate development of the right-hand drive model for UK and some of the other right-hand drive markets.”

The company plans to begin selling the Think City in the United States in the fourth quarter of this year. The first cars sold will be built in Finland until production in Indiana gets under way in 2011.

Think Global, which emerged from court protection last year, began delivering the latest generation of its electric car to customers in Europe in December.

Canny said Think will ship 500 cars to the U.S. market toward the end of the year and will begin “low volume production” in Indiana in 2011.

The plan is to produce “few thousands” of vehicles, Canny said, adding that the company is currently working on its U.S. distribution network.

Think has been in the electric car space since the 1990s but has has changed owners and struggled for cash through the years.

It was formerly part of U.S. automaker Ford Motor Co F.N and its Think City electric car was produced after Ford took a major stake in 1999. (Reporting by Poornima Gupta; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)