BERLIN, Aug. 25 (UPI) -- The smoke-spewing Trabant, a sorry symbol of East Germany's inferior state-organized economy, is poised to make a comeback as an electric car.
Alas, the good old Trabbi. You can still see, hear and smell it moving through Berlin. Packs of camouflaged models of the two-stroke cars famous for their low speed and high emissions are featured in the so-called Trabant Safari -- tourist joyride in the vehicles that two decades ago chugged trough the Brandenburg Gate into freedom.
A team of German companies spearheaded by Indikar is now reinventing the Trabbi as a sustainable mobility champion. The Trabant NT, a modernized version, comes with an electric engine and a solar panel roof, and will be unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show next month. Inside, it won't come with a plastic dashboard but connections for a satellite navigation system and an iPod, the company said.
The car certainly has selling potential, as it's engraved in the hearts and minds of Germans. In former East Germany, you had to wait several years to get one. The companies developing the Trabant NT say they are currently looking for investors to mass-produce the car by 2012.
Then it could be part of the first 100,000 electric vehicles the German government wants to help sell in 2012, at a time when the established German car giants including Daimler and BMW are due to thrown their EVs on the market. The plan is part of a national strategy Berlin just unveiled to make the country a world leader in sustainable mobility and have 1 million electric cars cruise its Autobahn highways by 2020.
"In 2030, this could be over 5 million. By 2050, traffic in towns and cities could be predominantly without fossil fuels," the National Electric Mobility Plan reads.
It includes $712 million for sustainable mobility research and development, including programs to develop the charging station infrastructure and boost battery technology, an area of expertise that has long belonged to Asia.
The plan also mulls a $7,000 rebate for Germans buying an electric car starting in 2012, and it earmarks money for eight model regions aimed at learning about driving patterns and how to best integrate electric mobility into the German electricity grid. The scheme also supports research and development into fuel cells and biofuels.
Germany banks on sustainable mobility to reduce its dependence on oil imports and reach its ambitious climate-protection targets.