Fuel Cell and Hybrid Vehicles Meet Challenge

More than 100 of the cleanest-running advanced technology vehicles on the planet participated in the fifth annual environmental vehicle competition, Challenge Bibendum. Created and organized by Michelin, the event brings together all participants in the transportation industry to highlight and discuss the progress being made towards sustainable mobility and environmentally positive transportation. Challenge Bibendum was centered at Sonoma’s Infineon Raceway and featured fuel cell and hybrid vehicles from the many of the world’s automobile manufacturers. Competition results showed excellent progress on a variety of technology fronts.

Sonoma, California – October 8, 2003 [SolarAccess.com] “One thing is clear, there are many choices for environmentally positive transportation,” said Gerard Fresson, director of the International Technical Committee for Challenge Bibendum. “One can find in each category vehicles that are achieving excellent levels in emissions, noise and fuel economy – without compromising performance or safety measures.” Like past editions of Challenge Bibendum, a wide range of energy and propulsion systems were represented; but this year, the distribution of technologies was markedly different. Hydrogen powered cars (fuel cells and Internal combustion engines), diesels and several hybrid technologies dominated the field for the 2003 competition. This compares with 2002 when compressed natural gas (CNG), liquid natural gas (LNG) and electric vehicles pre-dominated. 2003 also saw the addition of commercial vehicles (heavy-duty trucks and buses) to the Challenge Bibendum competition. “We have made an important start in integrating commercial vehicles into the competition,” said Challenge Bibendum Director Patrick Oliva. “It is a crucial component of road mobility and an area in which environmental technologies are quickly emerging.” Competing commercial vehicles represented a 50/50 split between trucks and buses. One major development was the ability of some commercial vehicles to achieve excellent results with zero emissions. Thirty-two competition vehicles received Gold Awards for emissions levels. This represents all of the different technologies involved in the evaluation from electric vehicles to internal combustion gasoline engines. The Gold Award corresponds to Super Ultra Low-Emission Vehicle (SULEV) rankings by California and U.S. standards, achieving zero or near-zero emissions. Less noise pollution is another goal of sustainable mobility and the participants at the 2003 Challenge Bibendum achieved that goal. Six vehicles earned Gold Awards and 16 vehicles earned Silver Awards. The Noise Award winners represent seven different energy sources and propulsion systems from twelve different participants. Thirteen of the noise winners are production vehicles, meaning consumers can choose quieter running vehicles today that can positively impact the noise pollution in their communities. “Participating internal combustion engines as well as fuel cell vehicles and electric battery cars are producing a fraction of the noise generated by the average car on the road today,” said Jeff Hidde, technical director for the 2003 Challenge Bibendum. In the Fuel Economy competition, once again a wide range of technologies and energy sources achieved excellent results. “This is not surprising,” said Fresson. “When you give engineers a chance to utilize a variety of technologies, the results converge with the same energy efficiency.” In the performance tests, seven percent of competing vehicles earned a Gold Award for Slalom. And all of these were internal combustion engines. Frontal Crash Impact Safety is the newest addition to the Challenge Bibendum evaluations and the results produced excellent news in regards to vehicle safety. Thirty-five percent of production vehicles received an excellent ranking for Frontal Crash Impact Safety. An additional 60 percent received good results. “These advanced technology vehicles are in the upper end of the market when it comes to crash safety,” said Oliva. “This proves that one need not compromise vehicle integrity to achieve environmental goals.” Among the innovative entries at Challenge Bibendum was an electric car powered by lithium-ion batteries, provided by AC Propulsion. Called “the tzero,” the prototype has a 300-mile range, accelerates from zero to 60 miles per hour in only 3.6 seconds, and has a top speed of 100 miles per hour. In addition to the competition at Challenge Bibendum, an International Design Jury also selects passenger vehicles for design awards. There are two Design Award categories: production passenger and prototype passenger vehicle. Each category consists of two awards: one for style innovation and one for technical integration, for a total of four design awards. The 2004 Toyota Prius was awarded both the Style Advancement Award and the Technical Integration Award for production vehicles. The 2002 DaimlerChrysler Mercedes-Benz F-Cell A-Class was awarded both the Style Advancement Award and the Technical Integration Award for prototype vehicles. Each of these cars received the unanimous vote of the judges for both awards in their category. This was based on each vehicle’s superior achievement in both style and integration of technology. The Style Advancement Award is given for the highest quality demonstration of vehicle design, keeping in mind respect for the environment. The Technical Integration Award recognizes that seamless integration of advanced technologies into the design of the vehicle. The integration of new technologies should be used to enhance the amenities, interior and cargo space, and overall vehicle aesthetics. “Overall, the progress towards sustainable mobility by all of the participating technologies and energy sources is very impressive,” said Oliva. “There is no single choice, no one path alone to achieving our ultimate goal of environmentally-positive road transportation that is enjoyable to drive and safe for drivers and passengers. Each year, the variety of technologies and creative innovations displayed offer proof that sustainable mobility is within our grasp.”
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