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Can Turkey beat Tesla at its own game with a Saab-based EV?

Saab 9-3
The Turkish government is funding the development of an all-electric vehicle that it hopes will drastically change the nation’s automotive landscape. The project is still at the embryonic stage of development, but government officials are ambitiously predicting that the sedan will be a ground-breaking vehicle.

“Our car will be better and safer than Tesla’s car,” asserted Fikri Işık, Turkey’s minister of Science, Industry, and Technology.

Işık explained that Turkey’s yet-unnamed people’s car will be better than a Tesla — presumably the recently introduced Model 3 — because it will be equipped with a range extender that will automatically top up the battery pack when it’s out of electricity. The unit will take the form of a 1.0-liter two-cylinder engine that will be produced locally starting in late 2018. It will likely be designed specifically for the car, too, because there is currently not a single major automaker with a 1.0-liter twin in its parts bin.

Further technical details haven’t been published yet, so what kind of battery the car will use and how far it will be able to drive on a single charge is anyone’s guess at this point. What we do know is that it will be built on the same platform as the second-generation Saab 9-3 (pictured), a sedan, mediocre by most accounts, that was introduced over 14 years ago. The platform can’t be considered anything but outdated by  any means of measurement, but Turkish officials recently explained that it was an attractive starting point because it was “affordable.”

With development work already under way, Turkey is looking for a partner to help build its people’s car. The government is talking to several companies, including Fiat, but it hasn’t signed a deal yet.

Read more: Can a lineup of five all-electric models save Sweden’s Saab from burning out?

Interestingly, the Turkish government is open to the idea of selling the rights to build its upcoming electric model to other companies in order to raise money for future projects, including building a fully autonomous car. It’s too early to tell whether traditional automakers will take Işık up on his offer.

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