Germany sets target of a million electric cars

Germany today launched a campaign to get a million electric cars on the road by 2020, trying to position the country as a market leader. 

Economy minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg said the target "is an ambitious aim, but one that we believe can be realised."

Germany had more than 41 million cars on the road at the beginning of this year - only 1,452 of them electric.

The government plans to spend £100 million examining in eight test regions how the cars could best be introduced. It also plans to put about £160 million into research on batteries, making domestic production a priority and ensuring that German experts are trained in the technology.

"It is important that we couple a hopefully decreasing dependency on oil imports with not suddenly becoming dependent on battery imports," zu Guttenberg said.

The plan calls for electric cars to be put on the market starting in 2012, but does not specify what if any incentives might be offered to would-be buyers.

Germany holds a general election on September 27 and the next government is sure to include at least one of the two partners in Chancellor Angela Merkel's "grand coalition" of the country's biggest parties.

Opposition parties welcomed the plan, but said it was far too short on both specifics and money. The program is "significantly underfunded," said Green party member Baerbel Hoehn.

Germany's car companies have rushed to catch up to their competitors elsewhere, particularly in Asia, in electric technology.

Earlier this month, Japan's Nissan unveiled the Leaf, an electric car that has a range of 100 miles on a single battery charge. Leaf is scheduled to go into mass production for a global market in 2012.

In June Mitsubishi launched its electric vehicle, the i-MiEV.

Others are planning their own electric cars, including China's Dongfeng which has teamed up with a Dutch company to develop and make them.

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