TH!NK OX

The Th!nk Ox is a five-seat concept car introduced last spring at the Geneva Auto Show. According to Th!nk, the Ox will have a range of about 125 miles on a full battery charge, and a top speed of 85 miles an hour.

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When people think of Th!nk, they think of the Norwegian company's Th!nk City, the bug-like electric commuter that will be available for purchase in Norway (and later, the rest of Europe) by the end of 2008, and in the US (supposedly) in 2009.

But the Ox is a whole different animal: It's sized for U.S. highways (and families), and packed with cool-sounding stuff like a DNA sensor and instant connectivity with all of your internet devices. But buried in the specs are two real-world innovations that matter: (1) A solar panel on the roof that will give the auxiliary electric system a boost, allowing one to pre-cool (or pre-heat) the car before entering. (As anyone with an underpowered alternative-fuel vehicle knows, one of the sacrifices of saving the planet is sweltering with weak-kneed A/C.) And (2), the other promised innovation is a 5-star U.S. safety rating. This doesn't seem like a big deal, as current hybrids and to-come models like the Chevy Volt have the same rating. But it's important because Th!nk, like Tesla Motors, makes electric cars exclusively. If they commit to building affordable, all-electric vehicles for U.S. drivers that won't shatter at the sight of an oversized SUV's grill, then they may actually provide some competition to domestic companies -- and push them further toward innovation.

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