Daimler has announced that it is to produce a "five-figure number" of Smart Fortwo electric vehicles next year.

The German automaker, which owns both Mercedes-Benz and Smart, said August 16 that the third-generation Smart Fortwo Electric would go on sale in more than 30 markets worldwide from spring 2012.

Although there are currently over 2,000 electric versions of the Fortwo on the roads, most are part of small-scale trial schemes with limited numbers of users.

The announcement signifies a major push into the electric vehicle market by Smart, which first started producing its iconic city cars in 1998 and has built a strong following in congested cities around the world.

Now it is set to boost production to a scale that will put it in competition for urban drivers with all-electric names such as Mitsubishi, maker of the compact i-MiEV, and Nissan, the manufacturer of the Leaf.

The third generation model will use a 55kW motor capable of accelerating from 0 to 100km/h in 13 seconds and offering a top speed of over 120km/h - on par with the traditional gas-powered Smart.

A 17.6 kWh battery will give the diminutive vehicle a range of "well over" 140 kilometers, with a charge time of up to eight hours - although an optional quick-charging function will fully charge a fully depleted battery in under an hour, according to Daimler.

The model is expected to be unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show, which runs September 15-25 in Frankfurt, Germany.


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