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Spain's electric car sales far off target

Tue, 08/10/2010 - 7:13am
CIARAN GILES - Associated Press Writer - Associated Press

Spain's much-publicized plans to put thousands of electric cars on the road as part of a drive for a greener economy are way off target, with only 16 sold so far.

The government-back REVE electric car and wind power project said on its website Tuesday that 2010 sales are up 15 from last year, when just one model sold.

The Industry Ministry's plan was to have 2,000 electric cars on the road by the end of 2010 and 20,000 electric and hybrid vehicles operating the following year.

In April, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero announced the government would invest €590 million ($775 million) in promoting and developing production of electric cars over the next two years.

The plan was a key element of the government's strategy to try to lift the Spanish economy out of the doldrums and be more environmentally friendly. The economy has now posted two quarters of meager growth after nearly two years of recession.

The long-term objective is to have 250,000 electric and hybrid vehicles in circulation by 2014. There were to be 500 charge-up points available around the country, but so far these appear to be few and far between.

On its website, REVE played down the poor sales.

"The figures are similar to what happened in the beginning with personal computers or mobile phones," it said. "The first models are expensive and with few options and initial sales were low."

But toward 2012 dozens of electric vehicles with lithium batteries and at a lower price than the current one will reach the market and the recharging infrastructure will be more organized, it added.

No one at the Industry Ministry or REVE could be contacted for further comment.

The 16 models sold in Spain were made by Norway-based auto maker Think, one of the leading electric car makers. They are two-seaters and sell for from €30,000 ($40,000), with the government offering up to €6,000 in aid. The cars have a maximum speed of 110 kph (69 mph) and can cover 180 kilometers (112 miles) between recharges.

Electric and hybrid cars are slowly becoming more common in Europe and elsewhere for environmental reasons.

Electric cars are smaller and suit cities with narrow, traffic congested streets. But manufacturers are aware that the costs of purely electric vehicles will have to come down if they are to become attractive to customers.

Besides companies like Think, major automakers such as General Motors, Nissan and Renault, are also working on models.

Spain is Europe's third-largest auto manufacturer but the economic crisis has seen sales slump dramatically.

Renault agreed last year to make Spain's first electric car in 2011 at its Valladolid plant.

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