Bibendum and Michelin HY-LIGHTClick to enlarge picture

Bibendum, more commonly know as the Michelin Man, stands with the Michelin HY-LIGHT fuel-cell vehicle. Photo: ©2004 Michelin China Investment Co. Ltd.

Each year the newest and most innovative ideas are showcased at Challenge Bibendum, affording industry leaders, journalists and competitors the opportunity to evaluate, compare and experience the newest technology designed to lead to sustainable mobility around the world.

While the latest technology was certainly present for this year's event, the location of the sixth Challenge Bibendum—in Shanghai, People's Republic of China—had almost as much impact as the vehicles.

Traveling to and from the Challenge Bibendum events in buses and taxis was nearly as much of an education as the event itself. We experienced firsthand results of the recent surge in vehicles sales within the People's Republic: long traffic jams; stifling air pollution, and serious traffic safety issues.

Rapidly emerging as the newest frontier for the automotive industry, China's burgeoning vehicle sales have accelerated many automakers' plans to establish a presence there, with car sales in China expected to reach the level of the U.S. market by 2020.

The sixth edition of Michelin Challenge Bibendum was conducted in the Shanghai International Automobile City (SIAC), currently under development in the Jiading district of northwest Shanghai. SIAC will include research, testing, production and distribution facilities. Performance testing and driving evaluations were conducted at the recently completed Shanghai International Circuit, also located in SIAC—a state-of-the-art Formula One racetrack that hosted the inaugural Grand Prix of China in September.

The College of Automotive Studies at Tongji University was the location for formal ceremonies and symposiums throughout the event, a new facility in SIAC designed to educate professionals to support the emerging automotive industry.

Conducting the Challenge Bibendum 2004 in China underscored the issues facing the development of sustainable mobility alternatives: future energy sources, pollution and CO2 emissions, and road safety.

Competition at the Core of Challenge Bibendum

"Challenge Bibendum in Shanghai is a fantastic opportunity for automobile manufacturers, as well as for technology developers, energy suppliers and researchers, to demonstrate the performance, safety, and comfort of high-tech vehicles," said Edouard Michelin, Michelin Group managing partner.

A total of 150 vehicles and more than 2,000 persons participated in this year's event, with 74 vehicles being tested and judged. While the event offers a unique opportunity for different technologies to be compared, the vehicles do not compete directly against each other but are compared against established benchmarks for each type of energy source.

The competing vehicles received grades ranging from A to D in seven different categories for passenger cars, and six categories for 2-wheel vehicles and buses. All vehicles were tested for acceleration, braking, noise, emissions, fuel efficiency, and CO2 emissions, while passenger cars were also tested for handling on a slalom course.

Challenge Bibendum competitors also took part in a road rally, starting and ending at the Shanghai International Circuit that was designed to represent Chinese driving conditions. The goal was to follow the route most closely without missing any checkpoints.

Design awards were chosen by a design committee for the vehicles that best integrate sustainable mobility technology into the design of the car.

For production cars the winners were: Style Advancement Award: 2004 Audi A8; Technical Integration Award: Toyota Prius. For concept cars: Style Advancement Award: Volvo 3CC; Technical Integration Award: 2003 Mercedes A-Class F-Cell.

Special Design Awards: Style Advancement Award: Wuhan Univ. of Technology Aspire; Technical Advancement Award: Michelin HY-LIGHT.

China Impacts Entries With Scooters, Buses

"Challenge Bibendum's Asian premiere was jointly organized by Michelin and China's central authorities," according to Eric Jugier, president of Michelin China.

Entries from Chinese vehicle manufacturers filled the entry lists as 2-wheel vehicles were added to the event for the first time—a total of 20 2-wheel vehicles were entered for testing. Twelve of the entries were battery-electric powered and the other eight were powered by internal combustion engines using liquid propane gas for fuel.

Challenge Bibendum 2004 saw the largest entry of buses ever, with a total of 15 buses entered for testing with a variety of power sources, including six battery-electric, one hydrogen fuel cell, and six diesel hybrids.

Hydrogen fuel cells, battery-electric, hybrid, and internal combustion engine (ICE) gasoline, and ICE diesel were all represented in the passenger car category. The eleven fuel-cell entries for the category show an area of progress from the first Michelin Challenge Bibendum conducted in 1998—back then only one fuel-cell vehicle was entered and it was a large truck, because it needed to accommodate a considerable fuel cell stack and battery storage.

In contrast, a number of the fuel-cell vehicles represented today are hard to distinguish from current production cars in terms of packaging, such as the Audi A2H2, Ford Focus FCV, General Motors Hydrogen3, and Hyundai Sante Fe FCEV.

Battery-electric vehicles were also prominent in the passenger car category with nine entries, predominantly form Chinese and European manufacturers. Hybrid vehicles combining an ICE with an electric motor included the production Ford Escape and Toyota Prius, as well as several prototypes, including a diesel hybrid from Volkswagen. And the entry from HABO, a chemical technology company utilized hydrogen peroxide as fuel to power a steam turbine, emitting only water and O2 as byproducts.

Volvo Debuts New Electric Concept at Challenge Bibendum

Volvo chose the Michelin Challenge Bibendum 2004 to reveal its all-new electric concept vehicle, the Volvo 3CC—a type of debut that is normally reserved for top international auto shows.

The 3CC is a new concept for a sports car, designed to carry up to three adults or two adults and two children with a unique two-plus-one seating configuration that accommodates two adults in the front and either one adult or two children in the rear. Not just a concept car, the 3CC competed in all of the Challenge Bibendum evaluations, earning "A" scores in five of the seven categories.

The 3CC is a car that looks really cool, but makes sense by incorporating safety and minimizing environmental impact. As entered at Challenge Bibendum, the 3CC was powered by an electric motor with electricity stored in lithium ion batteries.

Michelin Enters Vehicles for First Time

Michelin entered two vehicles in Challenge Bibendum 2004 to present new technology, with both vehicles featuring Michelin Active Wheel technology.

The Michelin HY-LIGHT was developed by Michelin in conjunction with the Paul Scherrer Institut and is a 4-seat example of what a car may look like in 15 to 20 years.

The HY-LIGHT utilizes a fuel cell powered by hydrogen and oxygen. Michelin Active Wheel technology for the two front wheels incorporates electric motors in each front wheel to propel the car and power the active suspension. Energy from braking is stored in supercapacitors to provide additional power for acceleration.

The Michelin Concept is an electric vehicle that utilizes Michelin Active Wheel technology for all four wheels, with no mechanical link between the power source and the drive motors. An ICE combined with a generator provides electricity to power the vehicle and operate the electric active suspension and chassis stability management.

GM Announces Hybrid Bus Program With SAIC

General Motors hybrid buses are already in transit fleets in the U.S., and GM announced at Challenge Bibendum a joint hybrid bus program with Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation Group for the China market.

Following a strategy to apply hybrid technology in high-volume and high-fuel-consumption vehicles, the project will use the hybrid powertrain developed by GM's Allison Transmission Division that is already powering buses in Seattle, Philadelphia and other U.S. cities. The Allison powertrain uses dual electric motors to launch the bus from a stop and captures braking energy that is stored in batteries. The bus will be manufactured by Sunwin, SAIC's bus joint venture in Shanghai.

Safety Forum and Public Day Added

Recognizing that road safety is an additional factor in sustainable mobility, Challenge Bibendum 2004 included a forum on this important topic.

The previous two editions of Challenge Bibendum began with the test vehicles on display for the public in the center of Heidelberg, Germany, two years ago and in Sonoma, California, last year. The Challenge Bibendum 2004 ended with a public day in the Trade & Exhibition Street in Shanghai International Automobile City. With the theme of "Environmental Protection and Car Development," the Challenge Bibendum competitors were displayed in an area similar to an auto mall that you would find in numerous cities around the U.S.

The Michelin Challenge Bibendum 2004 was jointly supported by the National Development and Reform Commission, P.R. China; Ministry of Science and Technology, P. R. China; State Environmental Protection Administration, P. R. China; and Shanghai Municipal People's Government.

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