Daimler has acquired an equity stake of nearly 10 per cent in US electric car maker Tesla Motors.

Daimler has acquired an equity stake of nearly 10 per cent in US electric car maker Tesla Motors.

Tesla's Roadster remains the only 'highway capable' vehicle for sale in North America or Europe. It is the first production battery electric vehicle to travel more than 200 miles per charge and the first US- and EU-certified lithium-ion battery electric vehicle.

The news of the acquisition comes as no surprise  the two companies have previously worked together to develop ways to integrate Tesla's lithium-ion battery packs and charging electronics into the first 1,000 units of Daimler's electric smart car.

100 of the smart electric cars have been undergoing large-scale trials in London since 2007; they are being tested by fleet operators and private customers.

Later this year, Daimler's smart assembly plant in Hambach, France, will start production of up to 1,000 units of the second-generation smart fortwo cars fitted with electric drive. In addition, the company will also be starting a small-series production run of its Mercedes-Benz B-Class with a fuel-cell drive system.

In 2010, Daimler plans to introduce its first battery-powered Mercedes-Benz, and by 2012, it says that all smart and Mercedes-Benz electric vehicles will be equipped with its own lithium-ion batteries.

The Daimler link-up with Tesla comes at a time of great uncertainty in the auto industry. In the first quarter of 2009, Daimler only sold 332,300 cars and commercial vehicles worldwide, which was 34 per cent lower than in the same period last year.

The result was that the company posted a net loss for the first quarter of this year of €1,286m versus a net profit of €1,332m in the same period last year.