Auto giant Daimler and German utility RWE will launch a network of 500 battery-charging stations next year, a trial meant to give electric car drivers the freedom to power up while on the go.
The project, called e-mobility Germany, will have Daimler and its Smart subsidiary supply 100 electric town cars. RWE will install and run the charging stations in Berlin, the companies announced last Friday.
The cars will be equipped with communication equipment that will allow consumers to have their cars charged at different locations and be billed to one account.
Charging stations are expected to be installed at people's homes as well as public spaces, such as offices, shopping centers, and parking lots.
The cars' lithium-ion batteries (from an undisclosed supplier) will be optimized for rapid charging and longer range. Those same batteries will be used in a Mercedes hybrid model as early as next year, the companies said.
The effort, modeled on a similar effort in London, is being financially supported by German government agencies as part of environmental policy.
"Our joint initiative is a good example of what can be achieved when policy makers, energy suppliers, and the automotive industry all work together toward the same goal," said Dieter Zetsche, chairman of the Board of Daimler, in a statement.
Project Better Place, founded by former SAP executive Shai Agassi, is taking a similar approach in an effort to make electric car ownership more attractive.
It has signed on the governments of Israel and Denmark to test a system where electric car drivers in a restricted driving area can replace batteries in a network of stations.
Utility RWE said it envisions that car batteries from the 100 electric cars in Berlin could feed electricity back into the grid to lessen the load during peak times.