Spurred by tough environmental rules and high fuel prices, European automakers and suppliers have launched a bevy of electric-vehicle programs.
-- Daimler said it will bring an electric version of its Smart minicar to market in 2010. The company also is considering electric versions of Mercedes-Benz A- and B-class cars.
-- PSA/Peugeot-Citroen, in partnership with Mitsubishi, said it aims to produce electric models in two years.
-- Renault plans to sell electric cars in Denmark by 2011. The French company is working with its Nissan affiliate and the Japanese battery manufacturer NEC.
-- Bosch, the world's largest auto supplier, has announced a project to build lithium ion batteries with Korea's Samsung. Bosch foresees batteries capable of powering a car almost 200 miles between charges.
But European analysts and industry executives caution that a widespread move to electric vehicles will pose challenges and cause dislocation in the industry.
For example, massive retraining programs will be needed for service workers at dealerships and repair shops. And automakers and suppliers will have to shift production to new technologies.
Said one BMW exec: "Thousands of workers in our company are employed in engine manufacturing. The question is: What are they going to do in the future?"
(Source: Automotive News)