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Daimler jumps on board Tesla

Sexy electrics: The plug-in Tesla Model S sedan will benefit from Benz manufacturing and engineering know-how to speed it into production within two years.

Mercedes-Benz joins forces with Silicon Valley EV pioneer to share technology

20 May 2009

THE world’s oldest car-maker – Daimler AG – has joined forces with one of the youngest – Tesla Motors – to collaborate on electric vehicle technology.

Daimler announced yesterday that it had acquired a 10 per cent stake in the Californian-based company, which is credited with using Silicon Valley nous to inject excitement and practicality into electric cars.

Tesla is the only production automaker selling highway-capable, full-size electric-powered cars in the US and Europe. The company claims its Tesla Roadster can sprint from zero to 60mph (97km/h) in 3.9 seconds and travel up to 390km on a charge.

Tesla also has developed a sedan, the Model S, which it says will become the world's first full-size electric production sedan when it hits the road in about two years.

The deal with Daimler formalises the business relationship between the two companies. To date, the co-operation has focused on integrating Tesla’s lithium-ion battery packs and charging electronics into the first 1000 units of Daimler’s electric Smart prototype car.

Daimler says the investment will enable the partners to collaborate more closely on development of battery systems, electric drive systems and in individual vehicle projects.

 center imageLeft: The Tesla Roadster and Tesla Model S. Below: Tesla's Elon Musk and Daimler's Dr Thomas Weber shake on the deal in Stuttgart.

Mercedes-Benz research and development director Dr Thomas Weber said the strategic partnership was an important step to accelerate the commercialisation of electric drives globally.

"As a young and dynamic company, Tesla stands for visionary power and pioneering spirit,” he said.

“Together with Daimler’s 120 years of experience in the automotive sector this collaboration is a unique combination of two companies' strengths.” In return for sharing its expertise with Daimler, Tesla is seeking access to the Mercedes-Benz lithium-ion pouch-cell battery technology, as well as Daimler’s muscle in engineering, production and supply chain expertise. Tesla chairman and CEO Elon Musk said the co-operation would accelerate development of the Tesla Model S and “ensure that it is a superlative vehicle on all levels”.

Daimler will get a seat on the Tesla board in return for its investment.

Daimler already has 100 Smart electric cars running around London in a large-scale trial since 2007.

Later this year, up to 1000 second-generation electric Smart Fortwo cars will start rolling off the production line in Hambach, France, for mobility projects in Germany and Italy.

Daimler is also starting small-series production of the Mercedes-Benz B-class with a fuel cell drive system later this year. In 2010, the company will introduce its first battery-powered Mercedes-Benz, while also planning to equip all Smart and Mercedes-Benz electric vehicles with its own lithium-ion batteries from 2012.

Tesla began development of its first electric vehicle, the Roadster, in 2004, becoming the first production battery electric vehicle to travel more than 200 miles (321km) per charge and the first US- and EU-certified lithium-ion battery electric vehicle.

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