Putin backs Russia’s first electric vehicles project

Russia is seeking to modernize its commodity-based economy, which was hit hard by the global crisis when energy prices fell, and wants to achieve growth in technology sectors where it believes it may have some competitive advantage.

Prokhorov, a gold-to-basketball entrepreneur who sold some of his most lucrative assets just before the crisis, is sitting on a cash pile he is ready to invest. He has previously demonstrated strong interest in technology.

"Putin listened very attentively and wanted to see this project discussed in detail with all the ministries involved as soon as possible," Peskov told reporters without elaborating on the details of the plan.

Industry professionals who had seen the early design of Prokhorov’s electric car told that the electric vehicle would be a Golf-class sedan with a body made from plastic. They said Prokhorov was ready to provide project financing for two years.

They said the target price for the electric car would be around 8,800 euros and it would be a pure electric vehicle as opposed to a hybrid, which runs on both a conventional engine and battery-powered electricity.

Prokhorov’s Onexim Group currently has no car production facilities. It was not immediately clear whether Prokhorov planned acquisitions or partnerships to complete the project or whether he had asked Putin for funding.

France’s Renault SA, which has a stake in Russia’s largest carmaker AvtoVAZ, and its Japanese partner Nissan Motor Co Ltd have been the most aggressive proponents of pure electric vehicles.

In August, the alliance unveiled a zero-emission, hatch-back vehicle called "Leaf;" it plans to start selling the first cars in the United States, Japan and Europe towards the end of 2010 at prices comparable to those of a gasoline-engine cars of the same size.

Electric car enthusiasts say that current battery technology has advanced significantly from that of earlier models, making electric cars cost-efficient. Russia’s vast defense sector has some expertise in making batteries.

Source: Reuters