The competition is getting fiercer between Daimler AG and BMW AG as they race towards achieving serial production of small electric cars. Both are intent on changing their reputations of only creating high-performance luxury cars that are not at all fuel-efficient.
Daimler and BMW have long been reliant on V-8s that are used on the BMW X6 crossover and the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Gullwing.
But now, these companies are focused on their efforts to develop zero emission vehicles. Last July, BMW decided to stop its participation in Formula One racing in order to strategically realign the channeling of resources for the development of new sustainable powertrain technologies.
At the Detroit Auto Show, Klaus Draeger, BMW's head of research and development, said that it has the "largest fleet of e-cars out there on the street -- with customers that use them every day."
On the other hand, Mercedes boasts of being in "serial production while others are still tinkering around on showcars," according to its R&D chief Thomas Weber.
Records show that these carmakers have only sold very few electric cars. It's expected that full-scale industrial production of zero-emission cars will occur in 2012; however, market shares of more than 5% are unlikely within this decade.
Currently, BMW is pilot testing about 600 battery-powered Mini brand cars on the roads worldwide. Meanwhile, approximately 100 Smart EDs made by Daimler with the help of its partner Tesla Motors Inc. have been undergoing field tests and avoiding the congestion charge in London since 2007.