ARGONNE, IL – Upstart supplier EnerDel says it will launch “mass” production early next year of lithium-ion battery packs for use in a new commuter car from Norwegian electric-vehicle maker Think Global.

If development and output targets are hit, EnerDel could be the first supplier to produce Li-ion batteries in the U.S. for a salable volume vehicle.

EnerDel, formed in October 2004, originally as a joint venture between Ener1 Inc. (80.5%) and Delphi Corp. (19.5%), is in the process of tooling up a facility in Indianapolis for production of the battery packs.

Delphi recently exited the JV but holds a small equity in Ener1.

The EnerDel hard-carbon Li-ion batteries provide more thermal stability and a longer life than some alternative compositions, executive Taison Tan says here in a presentation to an international conference on Li-ion battery technology hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy and its Argonne National Laboratory.

Tan declines to say what volumes EnerDel is expecting from the Think Global program, but EnerDel says on its website that the 98,000-sq.-ft. (9,104-sq.-m) Indianapolis facility has a potential capacity for 300,000 battery packs per year.

Initial installed capacity is closer to 60,000 units annually, EnerDel has said.

The new Th!nk City isn’t likely to require anywhere near those volumes, however. And EnerDel is only one of three battery suppliers for the car.

EnerDel’s Think Global order is valued at $70 million, and estimates are that will equate to about 5,000 battery packs.

In addition to EnerDel, Massachusetts-based A123 Systems Inc. will provide a Li-ion battery and Switzerland-based MES DEA SA will supply its ZEBRA sodium-based battery for the City, Think Global says. A123 Systems says it has manufacturing capability in China, South Korea and Massachusetts.

Think Global says single-shift capacity for the car is 3,500 units annually.

The Norwegian company showed off its new City at the Geneva auto show in March. It says the car can travel 124 miles (200 km) in city driving on a single charge and reach a top speed of 62 mph (100 km/h), depending on which battery pack is chosen.

Unlike Think Global’s earlier efforts under former owner Ford Motor Co., the 2-seat City 3-door is a full-fledged car. It measures 83.5 ins. (312.0 cm) in overall length and comes equipped with airbags, antilock brakes and entertainment and navigation systems.

EnerDel also is supplying batteries to the U.S. Advanced Battery Consortium for testing. The USABC is a research organization comprised of the Detroit Three auto makers. The company also is collaborating on materials research with the Argonne National Laboratory through the USABC.

There reportedly are about 1,200 Th!nks still in operation in Norway. Ford sold 5,280 of the golf-cart-like Th!nk Neighbor vehicles in the U.S. before selling the company in 2002.

dzoia@wardsauto.com