Friday, May 28, 2010

Getting electric cars through merger and acquisition

In what may be a major shift in the electric car world, the world's biggest automobile manufacturers are buying into small electric car firms.

Is it part of a larger trend? Hard to say, but two of the world's biggest car makers are now in the ecar business by virtue of partnerships rather than native invention.

Within the past month, Toyota jumped into the space with a big ($50 million) investment and partnership announcement with Tesla. Tesla builds the supersportscar, Tesla Roadster, which is all electric.

They plan a car with the drive train to be built by Tesla, and the rest of the car by Toyota. And they'll build it in California. Here's the release announcing Toyota's investment in Tesla.

Now Daimler, the parent of Mercedes Benz, has signed on for an $80 million stake in a joint venture with the Chinese electric car and battery firm, BYD. Here is Daimler's press release on the move. Here's how AllCarsElectric sees it.

In their collaboration, to be called Shenzhen BYD Daimler New Technology, the firms will build a car for Chinese consumers that is also built around the electric car manufacturer's drive system.

There have been a lot of missteps in the electric car space, largely in promises unkept.

Daimler, for instance, in 2008 announced it would be selling an all electric version of its Smart car by 2010. Then in 2009 it said it would be producing the Smart fortwo in 2012. Apparently Daimler is building test models, but hasn't been able to get large-scale manufacture and distribution going.

Subaru in 2007 said its R1e would be on the market in 2009. Well here it is 2010, and it's still not up there on the Subaru website.

A couple of big car companies are designing and building their own ecars, like Nissan's Leaf and the Mitsubishi i-Miev.

Chevy's Volt is a little closer to a hybrid than a pure electric car, since it carries an on-board gasoline-powered generator. And in fact, the big car companies generally seem to like the hybrid model a lot more than pure electric cars.

If you want to buy an electric car right now, most of your selection is from among smaller car manufacturers, like Tesla , Zap and GEM .

© Jan TenBruggencate 2010

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