Thursday, August 7, 2008

Hybrid Cars at Beijing Olympics

We've been hearing a lot about the air pollution in Beijing -- bad enough that some Olympic athletes are worried it will affect their performances. So, it is great news that Olympic officials will drive green, hybrid cars during the two-week event.

If you think these hybrid vehicles are from China's next door neighbor, Japan -- the Toyota Prius, Honda Civic Hybrid, or Nissan Altima Hybrid -- you would be wrong. The hybrid technology for these green cars is from Ricardo, an engineering company based in Detroit. The actual powertrain and other technology for these hybrids are being manufactured at Ricardo's factory in England.

The hybrid motors and drive trains are being installed in 50 A5 sedans made by China's own Chery Automotibile Company Ltd. They are being called "Olympics Green Messengers," and are some of China's very first hybrid vehicles. The hybrids will go into full production in China in the months following the Olympic games, all the hope is that the fuel-efficient, eco-friendly Chery A5 Hybrid will become widely and wildly popular in China, just as the Prius has become in the USA.

The first Chinese hybrids are linked to a 1.6 liter gasoline engine with a 5-speed manual transmission. The next model will be a more comprehensive mild hybrid, with a smaller gas engine matched with a larger 151-volt electric motor.

This is just one more example of how necessity is the mother of invention. Here's hoping Ricardo will help auto manufacturers in other countries to speed development of great hybrid drives. Let's consider some possibilities --

India's Tata. Korea's Hyundai. France's Peugeot and Citroen. Italy's Fiat. Spain's Seat. Czech Republic's Skoda.

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