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Daimler, RWE to Roll out Electric Cars in Berlin

German carmaker Daimler is joining forces with RWE, one of the country's largest energy providers, to create a network of electric cars and charging stations in Berlin.

German Chancelllor Merkel looks at an electric car

Chancellor Merkel, left, takes a look at the electric car soon to hit Berlin's roads

A select group of Berlin motorists will get subsidized electric cars as part of an experiment launched Friday, Sept 5 by Daimler and leading German energy company, RWE.

The carmaker is to supply 100 cars powered by lithium-ion batteries. The cars will mostly be from its Smart car models and will have a range of about 100 kilometres from a single charge. They cannot be recharged from an ordinary power socket.

RWE is to set up 500 special charging sites (supply points) at owners' homes, workplaces and in car parks and shopping centres. Owners will be automatically billed for recharging, similar to the way they pay mobile phone bills.

Biggest in the world

The Berlin scheme is the second electric car test project initiated by Daimler, after electric Smart cars started a trial as fleet vehicles for the police and other services in London last year.

Dubbed “e-mobility Berlin, ” the scheme will be the largest of its kind in the world and is set to start by 2010, the two companies said in a statement.

“The initiative embraces all components of efficient use of battery-powered vehicles – from modern, innovative drive technology to customer-friendly infrastructure,” the statement said.

At the launch of the project, Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is a physicist, was gently critical, saying, "One hundred cars is not that many for 500 supply points." But she also forecast that electric cars "will prevail sooner than people think."

Other critics said it will take six hours connected to the electricity network to fully recharge a lithium-ion car battery, though two hours is enough to achieve two thirds of a recharge.

Sustainable travel?

The cars cannot make long out-of-town journeys because of their limited range. But the German government is supporting the scheme because of its contribution to sustainable travel, the companies said.

“Our mobility concept sets up an integrated solution that combines everyday electric cars and a charging system built to suit them,” said Daimler head Dieter Zetsche. “This way we're improving the customer friendliness and usability of electric cars.”

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