A BMW 5-series electric car concept has been unveiled on the eve of the Beijing motor show.

Based on the long-wheelbase version of the 5-series, the car, called the Echo, has been developed in a joint project between BMW and Tongji University.

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Technical details are scarce, beyond the fact that it has an all-electric range of 100km.

The car is described as being "built in China, by China, and for China" by BMW, and sources suggest there are no plans to put it into production. Instead, an insider said BMW had entered into the co-operation with the government-backed university as a one-off test bed to gauge how advanced Chinese electric car technology is.

"The Chinese government is investing billions of dollars in electric car technology, and that is pushing development at an incredible pace," said the source. "Electric cars make so much sense for China; at present it has to import crude oil and it has a pollution problem, yet it has access to hundreds of years' worth of coal, and therefore easy electricity."

The Echo was built at BMW's Shanyang facility in China, using Chinese-sourced technology. "Chinese car makers will come up with interesting electric cars, but at present they are making bold claims without showing what they can actually do," added the source. "This is our way of finding out."

Jim Holder

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