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BMW in battery-car spying claim

2013-09-11 07:54

GETTING UP ON CHARGES: German automaker BMW has been accused of spying on a French company that runs a giant fleet of rentable battery-cars. Image: AFP

PARIS, France - The Bollore group that runs Parisian car-sharing scheme Autolib' has filed a criminal complaint accusing German automaker BMW of using spies to gather information about its electric cars.

The group said the industrial espionage complaint was filed after two employees of a company used by BMW were spotted three times tampering with charging points and Autolib' vehicles parked in Paris.

BMW denied any wrongdoing.

ACTION CONFIRMED

"We do not know for now what information they have been able to gather or the technologies they have used," Autolib' spokesman Jules Varin told AFP. "All we can say is that Bollore is ahead in several technologies in which we have invested a lot of money, including the battery and the geo-location system."

A judicial source confirmed that Autolib' had taken legal action.

BMW says the two people employed by engineering firm P3 to prepare the launch for the upcoming BMW i3 electric model "were conducting routine tests across Europe to check the compatibility of charging points on public roads".

The two men aroused suspicion when they were found tampering with a Bollore Bluecar - as the electric model is called - on August 21 2013 at a charging point in the city's 9th District. When questioned by Autolib' staff, they said in halting French that they worked for a German automaker. They gave no name but were driving a BMW car registered in Germany.

The next day they were spotted at another charging point but the Autolib' maintainance staff could not apprehend them. They were finally caught on September 5 in the city's 7th District and arrested, questioned by police, but released the following day.

4000 CHARGING POINTS

BMW said it had ordered the tests to be carried out in the first two cases but not on the last day when they were arrested.

The Autolib' service was started in December 2011 and deploys battery cars for public use on a subscription basis, based on a citywide network of parking and charging stations.

The successful scheme currently has 34 000 subscribers, 1800 vehicles and around 4000 charging points in the French capital and its suburbs and has been extended to other cities such as Lyon and Bordeaux.

Bollore said nearly 6000 electric cars were registered in France in 2012, of which a third were Autolib' vehicles.
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