International car manufacturers have been unveiling electric concepts at the Detroit Auto Show, one of the largest motor shows in the US.

Unwilling to let high-profile hybrid announcements from Toyota, Honda and General Motors steal the show, US car giant Ford has announced new investment in electric vehicles, and Audi, BMW and Fiat have been unveiling new electric prototypes.

Ford is to invest an additional $450 (€310) million in its "aggressive electric vehicle plan," enabling it to deliver a pure electric Ford Transit Connect van in 2010 and begin production of the Focus Electric vehicle in 2011. The Focus Electric will have a target range of up to 161 km (100 miles) per full charge with zero emissions.

Audi has debuted its latest electric concept model, the "Detroit showcar Audi e-tron." A follow-up to the Audi e-tron unveiled at the Frankfurt Auto Show back in 2009, the Detroit showcar features two asynchronous electric motors with a running range of 155 miles (249 km). Combined, they can deliver 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) acceleration in 5.9 seconds and a top speed of 200 km/h (124 mph). Made of lightweight alumunium and composite materials, the concept weighs in at only 1,350 kilograms.

BMW has also announced its second electric concept based on the BMW 1 Series, the BMW Concept ActiveE. Powered by a synchronous motor, the vehicle is expected to achieve 161 km (100 miles) in range and 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) in less than 9 seconds. Top speed will be electronically limited at about 145 km/h (90 mph) and 1,800 kilogram model will charge in around 4.5 hours in North America and 3 hours in Europe.

An electric concept version of the popular Fiat 500 was also introduced by Chrysler, now owned by the Italian firm. Car-buying site recently featured the economical compact petrol version of the Fiat 500 as a car "that could save Detroit," when it hits showrooms in 2011. There are no reported plans to produce the electric version, however.

Chinese automaker Build Your Dreams or BYD also unveiled the e6, a four-door electric model due to be launched in the US this year.

The North American International Auto Show runs through January 24.

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