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Beijing show: Chinese go hybrid as Olympics near

Electric gift: Chery has donated 50 hybrid A5 sedans for the Olympic Games.

Chery leads Chinese manufacturers down green line as hybrids emerge at Beijing show

22 Apr 2008

AS CONTROVERSY continues over Beijing’s smog and its affect on endurance runners in the forthcoming Olympic Games, the 10th Beijing International Automotive Exhibition has this week showcased the latest environmental work undertaken by Chinese car manufacturers.

Most Chinese – and virtually all international – marques showed cars with either full-electric or petrol-electric hybrid powertrains.

Among them, Chery – which is known as the “Green Ambassador” through its donation of 50 petrol-electric hybrids for the Beijing Olympics – announced details of its eco-oriented “Oasis Series”.

Demonstrating Chery’s “capability in energy saving and environmental protection”, the series is based on five Chery models – the A5 (which is the donor vehicle for the “BSG and ISG” hybrids being used for the Games motorcade), the Tiggo 3, QQ6, Eastar and the Cross Eastar.

Other than petrol-electric hybrid technology, which in the case of the 1.3-litre A5 is claimed to reduce fuel consumption by as much as 30 per cent and CO2 emissions by 12 per cent, the Chery Oasis series shows the manufacturer’s commitment to diesel powertrains, fuel cell vehicles and flex-fuel ethanol-compatible technology.

Geely, too, which is in line to become Australia’s second Chinese brand (behind Chery), also showed a range of modern powertrains, including an impressive new family of common-rail four-cylinder turbo-diesel engines, including a 115kW/320Nm 2.2-litre unit.

62 center imageLeft: Chery ISF, Changan hydrogen sportscar, Ji Xun HEV, Great Wall Gwperi and BYD E6 electric car.

Not to be outdone, the Changan Automobile Group – which will also have hybrid vehicles in service at the Olympics, and intends to bring the Jie Xun HEV hybrid hatch to market later this year – reinforced its work in hydrogen technology with the unveiling of an independently developed hybrid sportscar.

Details are sketchy, but it is understood that the emissions-free coupe weighs just 750kg and is claimed to offer supercar-like performance.

Great Wall Motor unveiled a plug-in electric concept car known as the Gwperi EV, which is based on the Gwperi hatch unveiled in Beijing two years ago – the company’s first foray into passenger cars, which caused a scandal in Europe with its similarities to the Fiat Panda.

The EV uses lithium-ion batteries and a 50kW electric motor, and offers a fuel range of 10km between recharging.

Great Wall Motor also unveiled a hybrid version of the Hover, its export-oriented SUV.

Another significant vehicle that made its world debut in Beijing this week was BYD Auto’s E6 electric car.

The company said the E6 people-mover, which will hit the Chinese market around 2009 or 2010 are looks to have borrowed design cues from the Honda Odyssey, has been developed with an eye toward export in western countries, including North America and Europe.

It can reportedly accelerate from 0-100km/h in 10 seconds and can travel up to 300km on a single full charge recharging takes nine hours, although the company claims the lithium-ion batteries need just 15 minutes to reach 80 per cent capacity.

These batteries are being proclaimed as a new heat-resistant breed, using iron phosphate as one of the main electrode materials.

According to BYD, the electric car will follow a launch later this year in China of a petrol-electric plug-in hybrid – based on its F3 small car – that is capable of travelling 100km on electric power alone.

Volkswagen’s display in China included vehicles with common-rail turbo-diesel and compressed natural gas engines, while General Motors showed its Buick LaCrosse Eco-Hybrid and announced that the model would be available in China before the opening of the Beijing Olympics – the first application of the GM hybrid system in Asia-Pacific.

To enter production in China in June and showrooms a month later, the LaCrosse hybrid uses a 2.4-litre petrol-electric engine that can achieve a claimed 15 per cent improvement in fuel consumption – 8.3L/100km – over the conventional version.

Its emergence in China is part of GM’s “Drive to Green” strategy announced in January, which will see the joint-venture between Shanghai GM and the Pan Asia Technical Automotive Centre produce a series of green vehicles and powertrains over the next five years.

“Besides continually improving the cleanliness and efficiency of vehicles powered by traditional gasoline engines, GM and its joint ventures in China are also committed to sharing our advanced technology with our friends and partners across China in order to help build an energy-efficient and environmentally friendly automotive industry,” said GM China Group president and managing director Kevin Wale.

That sounds promising, but question marks remain over the widespread introduction of hybrid and other green-tinged vehicles in the developing market.

Car executives have questioned the practicality of importing or building hybrid vehicles in China, pointing to the high import duties (on either components or built-up cars) which in turn drive up costs. The Toyota Prius, for example, has not sold as well in China as some had expected.

With many Chinese consumers buying a vehicle for the first time, with limited disposal income, there is little incentive for them to purchase an environmentally friendly vehicle unless it is considered an affordable alternative.

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