Tony O'Kane | May 20, 2009

German automaker Daimler AG has announced its purchase of an almost 10 percent equity stake in US electric car start-up Tesla, an acquisition which it hopes will boost development of its future all-electric models.

Recently both companies have been collaborating on the electric charging and storage system for the upcoming smart fortwo ed, which is due to arrive here within the next five years.

Under an agreement signed in 2007, Tesla has been supplying smart with its lithium-ion battery packs and charging hardware, but this new tie-up will see the American company participate more closely in Daimler's future projects.

smart fortwo edChief among these will probably be Mercedes-Benz's first all-electric passenger vehicle, which is slated to debut in 2010 and will likely be a member of the A-class family.

At this early stage its unclear what precise role Tesla will play in the development of future Mercedes and smart cars, but Daimler AG says the new alliance will allow both to co-operate on both batteries and electric drive systems.

The partnership will work both ways too, and Tesla stands to gain a lot from it. In particular, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has his eyes on some of Daimler's latest battery tech; which may eventually wind up in his own company's offerings.

"Daimler is also on the leading edge in the field of sustainable mobility," said Musk.

"Among others, the lithium-ion pouch-cell battery developed by Daimler and especially designed for automotive applications is of interest to us," he said.

"We are looking forward to a strategic cooperation in a number of areas including leveraging Daimler’s engineering, production and supply chain expertise.

"This will accelerate bringing our Tesla Model S to production and ensure that it is a superlative vehicle on all levels."

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