You’d be forgiven for thinking that German automaker Daimler was trying to build its own little electric car empire. 

Not only does it have active electric car projects running with Nissan-Renault, BYD and Tesla, but it has now announced intent to work on a project with the automotive arm of electronics firm Bosch.

In a deal which is anticipated to be concluded in the first half of 2011, both firms will work together to develop a new generation of electric motors which will then be used in forthcoming Mercedes-Benz and Smart electric vehicles from 2012. 

With a full-scale production planned in just a year’s time, Daimler and Bosch will have some serious work to do in order to make their own deadlines. 

Bosch EV powertrain

Bosch EV powertrain

By working together the two firms obviously hope to develop a competitive edge, enabling the automaker to play catch-up with rivals Nissan, Toyota and General Motors, all of which have electric. hybrid or plug-in hybrid vehicles on the market.

While the Daimler-produced Smart ForTwo Electric Drive is already on sale in the U.S,  the diminutive city car has come under much criticism for its limited top speed and expensive purchase and lease schemes. 

Could a new motor developed by Bosch help redefine the car and make it popular among urbanites?  The next-generation Smart is certainly a prime candidate for the all-new drivetrain, although we’re expecting Daimler to focus its drivetrain efforts on the super-sexy Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG E-Cell and Mercedes-Benz A Class E-Cell models, both of which have much more appeal to a U.S. market. 

But Daimler won’t be the exclusive motor customers of the partnership. Under the deal, Bosch will be allowed to sell the developed drivetrains on to other automakers in a split which will benefit both itself and Daimler. 

The deal also highlights just how important electric cars are to automakers right now. In the rush to market, collaboration seems to be the best way to make sure that rivals don’t get the lion’s share of the customers. 

[Daimler, Bosch, via MotorAuthority]