Electric Tesla catches the eye

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Yet. Years ago, French company MVS Venturi sold a handful of cars it provocatively called the Fetish. Fierce Tesla rival Fisker also promises to have an electric car on the market by the end of this year.

More recently there’s been a wave of concept cars sporting electric motors. At this year’s Geneva show, respected Swedish supercar maker Koenigsegg teamed with solar-panel maker NLV to reveal the Quant, a rechargeable electric car covered in photovoltaic film to capture the sun’s energy and convert it to electricity.

And there were others, including the MagnaMila EV, a quirky electric car created to sell electric-car technology to car makers.

The material it was handing out on the show’s media days was as much for existing automotive manufacturers as it was for the press. “The platform… will enable start of production in a very short time period and fulfils standards for future CO2 requirements,” the press release says.In an alliance that points the way to the future,Magna is already delivering specialist expertise to conventional car makers looking to develop commercially viable electric vehicles.It is working withBMWon its Project i and has a deal with Ford to help develop an electric version of the Focus for 2011.

Indeed, the smaller companies appear to be playing a crucial part in improving one of the weak links of electric vehicles- batteries and the technology behind them.

After being caught with their pants down, established manufacturers are looking at buying off-the-shelf motors and battery technology that will allow them to bring electric vehicles to market in the shortest possible time. Tesla, for one, has an arrangement withMercedes-Benz-owned Smart to supply battery technology for an electric production version of the Fortwo.

GeneralMotors, which dabbled in electric vehicles as early as 1996 with the EV1 before killing the project off, has signed a deal with South Korea’s LG Chem to build lithium-ion batteries for its Volt plug-in electric vehicle, while Toyota is working with Panasonic to develop batteries for its hybrids and plug-ins.

And the list of mainstream manufacturers sprouting electric vehicle programs is growing by the day.

Mini has begun leasing its electric car with plans for 500 by the end of this year.Mitsubishi is arguably the most advanced with its iMiEV, a car already on sale in Japan, with plans to sell it here as soon as next year.Nissan plans to have an electric vehicle on sale globally by 2010 and in the local market by 2012.

But taking the plug-in car from the motor show to the home or shopping-centre garage won’t be easy or quick.

The haste with which these plans are being hatched means they may not be perfect, one of the reasonsMini and Smart are leasing cars rather than selling them. GM, too, is preparing special warranty conditions for its upcoming Volt (to be sold here as a Holden from 2012) so buyers aren’t afraid of adopting the technology in lieu of the proven reliability of regular engines.

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