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VW's E-Up could herald electric age

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German car maker Volkswagen is set to unveil a new electric car it hopes could pave the way for the mass production of a green alternative to the gas-guzzling vehicle.

The new model, called the E-Up, will be showcased at the Frankfurt Auto Show, along with other new cars that feature the company's BlueMotion technology that cuts carbon dioxide emissions by automatically switching off the car's engine when waiting in queues or at traffic lights.

The German car giant said the E-Up is expected to go into production in 2013, but it will not hit production levels of its other popular compact cars until 2020.

A major drawback with electric cars is their range; the distance they can cover before the battery needs recharging. VW said the E-Up's lithium ion battery will allow a range of about 80 miles, while the time to fully charge it is expected to be about five hours.

VW chief executive, Martin Winterkorn, said: "One of the basic milestones on this timeline is the mass-produced electric car."

But he added that the electric age in cars, and a perceptible reduction of their environmental impact, will only be truly realised once high volumes are sold on all continents.

© Press Association 2009