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Auto Industry

Daimler starts mass production of electric car

German automaker Daimler has kicked off series production of its Smart Fortwo electric vehicle, securing itself pole position in the field against its European rivals. The first units will be available in Germany soon.

Daimler on Tuesday became the first German automaker to begin mass production of an electric car. The Stuttgart-based company reported it had started series production of its Smart Fortwo ED (Electric Drive) vehicle in its facility at Hambach in France.

Daimler said the car could be ordered as of now and would be available to German and other customers in the fall of this year. The German carmaker is currently investing 200 million euros ($249 million) to completely modernize the Hambach plant, which was inaugurated back in 2007.

"The new Smart ED is the first genuine electric car in Europe," Daimler said in a statement. Its vital electronic components come from both Daimler and car parts supplier Bosch.

Clean, but expensive

Series production of the Smart ForTwo ED involves the third generation of the two-set vehicle. It includes a more powerful electric engine, which improves acceleration and top speed. A new lithium-ion battery pack will increase the top range to 140 kilometers (87 miles). Daimler said a quick-charge option would be available.

With the start of mass production, the carmaker was able to outpace all of its rivals. Volkswagen (VW) for instance will start selling its E-Golf in 2013. The same goes for BMW and its newly designed i3 brand.

Daimler's electric car comes at a cost, though. It's expected that Germans will have to fork out about 24,000 euros per unit, if they decide to buy it complete with the expensive battery system instead of renting it.

hg/sej (Reuters, dapd)