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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Daimler Buys 10% of Tesla to partner in EV tech development

Tesla motors has just gained a significant endorsement from the world’s second- largest maker of luxury cars, Daimler, who has bought a 10 percent stake in Tesla Motors Inc for $50 Million. to become a partner with the U.S. electric-vehicle manufacturer in developing new EV powering systems. The Germany based maker of Mercedes-Benz and Smart vehicles who recently announced a battery pack purchase deal with Tesla also recently bought a 49.9% share in Li-Tec, a battery- technology venture with Germany’s Evonik Industries AG.

The German car maker aims by 2012 to equip all Mercedes-Benz and Smart vehicles with lithium-ion batteries, which are lighter and more powerful than conventional nickel-hydride power packs. This partnership represents a massive jump over plans announced in January to buy battery packs from Tesla for electric Smart minicars. Under that arrangement, Tesla will supply lithium-ion packs for 1,000 cars in 2009 and 2010.

You really have to wonder what it is that Daimler is buying here. All the technology in the Tesla Roadster was originally licensed from AC Propulsion who are currently working with rival German outfit BMW on the E-Mini. During the early stages of developing the Roadster Tesla ditched the Analogue ACP Power inverter and designed their own digital version from scratch in less than a month. There is a fairly sophisticated battery Management System (BMS) in the Roadster but is that nugget of software really worth the $50 Million price tag? Daimler sell top of the line luxury cars that often lead the market with very advanced electronic based safety systems such as radar assisted cruise control so surely they have the in house engineering brain power to develop their own EV systems?

Tesla Motors have had a Smart demonstrator running around with what they say is the running gear out of a Roadster (if it does 0-60 mph in 4 sec in a Roadster, how fast would their 185 Kw 3 phase AC motor be in a tiny Smart chassis?) so perhaps this is the shape of things to come from this new partnership.

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