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Michelin Challenge Bibendum 2011

Michelin Challenge Bibendum

The Michelin Challenge Bibendum is the world’s leading showcase of the latest green cars, so what were the highlights of this year’s event held in Berlin?

The 11 th incarnation of the forum, which took place over 18-22 May 2011, brought together vehicles with the latest sustainable technology, put them through various tests, and showed them off to the media and the public.

There were hundreds of vehicles ranging from bikes through cars to trucks (as well as workshops and seminars); these are the top ten most important cars at the event that we believe you need to know about.

1. Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid

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This is a Volvo estate with four-wheel drive, which, according to official figures, is capable of 150 mpg along with 49 g/km CO2 emissions. It achieves this by mating a 2.4-litre turbodiesel engine with a battery and electric motor in a hybrid system. You can also plug the car in to the mains overnight to charge the battery. The car has a range of around 30 miles on electric power, once this limit has been reached it will need to switch to running on the diesel engine. It’s due to be on sale next year, and Green-Car-Guide was one of the first media in the world to drive the prototype – see our Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid full review .

2. Porsche Boxster E

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Most manufacturers have presented some form of all-electric prototype, and now Porsche has done the same with the Boxster E. This time everyone has got excited because it’s a Porsche. This car looks and feels exactly like the normal Boxster, but it has zero tailpipe emissions. The ‘mid-engined’ car can accelerate from 0-62 mph in 5.5 seconds, go on to a limited top speed of 124 mph, and has a range of 107 miles. It can even produce an artificial Porsche engine noise. Officially, Porsche says there are no plans to put this car into production, but even if there is no electric Boxster, it’s likely to be a test bed for some other future EV. Read our Porsche Boxster E review.

3. Citroen Survolt

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The Citroen Survolt is only a concept car, but it makes it into our top ten because it not only looks fantastic, but it also performed very impressively racing around the track at Berlin’s Tempelhof Airport. Specially developed with compact dimensions and a lightweight frame, the Survolt has a tubular chassis, a flat underside with extractor and full carbon bodywork – all combining to make a genuine emissions-free, all-electric racing car. The Survolt is capable of a top speed of 162 mph and a 0-62 mph time of under five seconds. The concept’s twin 140kg lithium-ion batteries deliver a range of 124 miles.

4. Peugeot EX1

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Not to be outdone by Citroen, Peugeot has also developed an electric racer concept, called the EX1. Although it looks like a three-wheeler from some angles, it actually has two rear wheels, but they are placed much closer together than the wheels at the front. The EX1 is a two-seater roadster powered by two electric motors, one located at the front and the other at the rear of the vehicle. Together they produce a peak maximum power of 340 bhp with a constant torque of 240 Nm. The EX1 recently set a record for the fastest time for an electric car around Germany’s Nurburgring race track, averaging almost 86 mph.

5. Nissan LEAF

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The Nissan LEAF is the one electric family hatchback that you can buy today in the UK, for £25,990 after the £5,000 UK government electric car grant has been deducted. The LEAF is the world’s first mass-produced all-electric five-seat hatchback. It’s very refined to drive, can reach 90 mph, has a range of 100 miles, and the electricity to cover this distance costs just £2. It’s also recently won the European Car of the Year award.

6. Vauxhall Ampera

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Whereas the Nissan LEAF is all-electric, with a finite range of around 100 miles before you have to recharge, the Vauxhall Ampera is an electric car with an on-board petrol range-extender engine, that kicks in when the battery runs low on charge. This means that you get all the benefits of an electric car on short drives (up to around 50 miles) – ie. zero tailpipe emission and zero fossil fuel required – but you can also drive to Scotland if you need to on the petrol engine (which has a range of around 300 miles). The Ampera is not quite on sale yet, but it will be very soon – first UK deliveries are due in early 2012, and after the £5000 grant, the car will cost £28,995, ie. £3,000 more than the LEAF.

7. Tesla Roadster

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The Tesla Roadster isn’t a concept or a prototype, it’s a real car and it’s been on sale for a while now. Based on the Lotus Elise, but with the petrol engine replaced by batteries and an electric motor, it reaches 60 mph in 3.9 seconds, or 3.7 seconds for the Roadster S version, and it goes on to a top speed of 125 mph, with a range of over 200 miles. Despite what Jeremy Clarkson might say, the Tesla is fantastic to drive; the main issue is that it costs £88,000.

8. Audi a1 e-tron

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Audi had a huge number of cars at the event, featuring powertrain technologies ranging from diesel to electric, but in our view the most significant was the Audi A1 e-tron. This is because this is due to be Audi’s first electric car that you’ll be able to buy, although it seems likely that it will appear with a range extender (using a Wankel engine) rather than as a pure EV. The A1 e-tron is expected to be capable of a 30-mile electric range, with an additional 120 mile range from the range-extender, along with 148.7 mpg and 45 g/km CO2. The electric powertrain technology was being demonstrated on the track in an Audi A3 e-tron prototype, which felt as smooth and refined as you would expect from Audi.

9. Venturi Volage

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Venturi may be best known for its exclusive electric Fetish model, but the lightweight (1075 kg) two-seater Volage is a new concept. It has two electric motors per wheel, one for suspension and one for drive, which gives it four-wheel drive. The clever active electric suspension system, developed with Michelin, ensures that the car keeps perfectly flat during cornering, no matter how enthusiastic, as we experienced on the track. It can accelerate from 0-60 mph in less than 5 seconds, reach over 90 mph, with a range of around 180 miles (at 60 mph). The Volage won three awards at the Challenge Bibendum: the Design Prize for the Michelin Active Wheels; and the Best Acceleration Prize (0 to 50 km/h from standstill in 2.2 seconds) and the CO2 Emissions Prize in the “Battery Electric Vehicles” Rally.

10. Protoscar LAMPO3

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The Protoscar LAMPO3 is a battery-powered electric demonstration sports car developed following lessons learnt over thousands of miles with its predecessors LAMPO and LAMPO2. It features a purpose-designed lightweight chassis for an EV, a 2+2 coupé design and a fast charge option. It has three motors – two on the rear axle and one on the front – with a total output of 420 kW (equivalent to 550 HP and 900 Nm), which provides four-wheel drive. This results in a 0-62 mph time of 4.5 seconds, 130 mph, and a 120 mile range. The Swiss company says that it may produce the car in limited numbers – let’s hope so.

Paul Clarke

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