It goes 36 miles on a battery and $1

One more - rather mysterious - entrant is joining the competitors for a commercial electric car. It was unveiled at the recent stockholders meeting of Westphalia Electric Works (RWE), West Germany's largest electric utility.

That's right. An electricity firm, not an automobile manufacturer. This johnny-come-lately got into the game a year ago, when Bernd Story, the Rhine-Westphalia Electric Works' chief of applied technology, hired inventor Erich Pohlmann to tinker full time with devising an electric car that wouldn't run out of juice 30 miles from any recharger or look like a tank for the weight of batteries in it.

That day isn't here yet. What is here is a vehicle - two of them, actually - that can go 36 miles at up to 60 miles per hour, one of the fastest speeds achieved by any electric car. The running cost of one full battery journey, RWS points out, is a negligible 2.40 marks (about $1).

It's unclear so far just how competitive the RWE car may prove to be against the Volkswagen, Daimler-Benz, and Soviet electric automobiles that are already on the road in West Germany. RWE officials are reluctant to disclose any of the specifics of their vehicle pending patent registration.

What they do say is that they - unlike the auto manufacturers - have started by placing an electric motor into what is still essentially a car designed for a combustion engine. They also add that the time lapse between Pohlmann's drawing board and operating prototype was remarkably fast - only one year. They are hoping the prototype will go on the market for 20,000 marks ($8,399) by the late 80's.

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