Trying to understand the scope of the 2011 Challenge BibendumMichelin's multi-day, mindblowingly comprehensive sustainability mobility event held this year in Berlin, Germany – is not easy. There are 280 vehicles on display or as part of the ride and drive. There are dozens of closed and open sessions discussing pretty much every aspect of moving people and things around the world more efficiently. The vehicles on display range from electric bicycles (lots and lots of electric bicycles) to plug-in cars to big biodiesel trucks. There are world premieres and modern classics. There are production passenger vehicles and one-off concepts. There is, in short, too much for one journalist to cover. It's also kind of impossible for one picture to express everything about everything that's going on here. But we found one that tries.

Discovered in the middle of the main walkway for a brief moment, the tiny thing seen above is just 125 cm long and 85 cm long (49 by 33 inches) and, with batteries, it weighs 21 kg (46 pounds) and has a range of 25 kilometers (15 miles) and a top speed of 20 kilometers (12 miles) per hour. Made of nothing more than, basically, styrofoam seat, a battery and wheels, this little thing shows how creative and different the future of mobility may look. We have no idea who's behind it, but it was on display at the Challenge Bibendum. Continue reading...

UPDATE: We discovered that this vehicle is a version of the Unique City Vehicle, created by Walter Janach at Leichtbau Engineering.

As the sponsor of an event this wide-ranging, Michelin certainly has something to say about more efficient mobility. To that end, the company's three-member management team (Michel Rollier, Didier Miraton and Jean-Dominique Senard) held a press conference this morning where they discussed the Michelin's green efforts. This takes a variety of shapes, including more fuel-efficient tires (30 million sold, which has led to 14 billion liters of fuel and 35 million tons of CO2 emissions saved, said Rollier). These tires may be more expensive than standard tires up front, said Sebard, but more and more, people will realize that the total cost of ownership is an important calculation, and that beneficial, expensive tires will be more appealing than cheaper tires that "cost" more. Rollier added that Michelin looks at the really big picture, calculating how much can be done with one kilogram of tire material – how many airplane landings per aircraft tire, how many miles driven per passenger car tire, how many kilograms of products can be moved per truck tire, etc. – as it tries to figure out how to deal with the future. The company is also working on fuel cell technology as well as, still, its Active Wheel technology.

As a global event, Challenge Bibendum realizes that different strategies work in different places. Most Iowa residents, to pick just one random example, don't have that much use for pure electric vehicles, just like most of the people living in Shanghai don't need a 4x4. It's kind of coy, but the slogan for the Challenge Bibendum – "Rallying together towards sustainable road mobility" – actually feels kind of true. We'll have more reports from Berlin in the coming days, but for further coverage, you can go to Michelin's official blog about the event, see this video on Carlist or check out Twitter mentions of Bibendum. The latest news is that the Renault Fluence Z.E has taken first place in the 300-km inter-city rally and the Nissan Leaf won the 30 km urban rally at Bibendum. Details below.


Our travel and lodging for this media event were provided by Michelin.

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Renault Fluence Z.E. wins the challenge Bibendum 2011
May 19, 2011

A Renault Fluence Z.E has taken first place on the podium in the 300 km inter-city Challenge Bibendum 2011 rally. In doing so it took the title not only from high-performance electric roadsters but also from hydrogen and fuel-cell vehicles.

The Fluence Z.E.'s entire well-to-wheels CO2 output calculated by Michelin's team of experts, was 57 g/km, or 8% better than the vehicle's homologation figures.

This victory demonstrates that Renault's 100% electric technology, whose price makes it accessible to the largest number of people, is also the most efficient.

In addition to this first place, Renault Fluence Z.E. also won 5 other trophies:

Renault Fluence Z.E. rose to 1st place in the manoeuvrability test on theADAC circuit. In the hands of Gregory Fargier, a test driver in Renault Sport Technologies, it achieved a record time of 2.02 minutes, or 5 seconds faster than the fastest of the Teslas.

Renault Fluence Z.E. received the award for the bestenergy efficiency. It succeeded in covering the 300 km of the Challenge Bibendum with a consumption of only 37.44 kWh. This performance was achieved thanks to the vehicle's energy efficiency and the eco-driving "Renault Driving Eco²"ofits driver, Gregory Fargier, and his co-driver Sylvie Savornin, a major account manager at Renault. In total, this represents a total autonomy of 215 km (including performance tests).

The Fluence Z.E.'s entire well-to-wheel CO2 output was also recognised with an award. As calculated by the Michelin team of experts, the figure of 57 g/km was lower than that of hybrid and fuel-cell vehicles. It demonstrates that Renault's electric technology is the cleanest and best-performing alternative energy solution.

Naturally, Renault Fluence Z.E. also received an award for its local emissions, because there are no polluting emissions in use.

Finally, Renault was presented with a design award for vehicle having the best integrated rechargingsolution.

Grégory Fargier and Sylvie Savornin, Fluence Z.E.'s driver and co-driver, said: "We are very happy to have won the challenge ahead of more exclusive competitors. This challenge gave us the chance to exploit all the vehicle's potential. It's reliable, pleasant and efficient to drive".

The Fluence Z.E. needed one battery change halfway through the rally to complete 300 km, taking 6 minutes on the clock. This performance was carried out under rally conditions thanks to a simple modification of the battery fixing system to enable it to be released with hand tools, the production fixing system being designed for automated power tools.

Visitors to Renault's stand were offered initiation in the "Renault Driving Eco²" eco-driving technique in a Fluence Z.E. and Kangoo Z.E., organised by Key Driving Competence, a Renault eco-driving training subsidiary. Thanks to their eco-driving training, the 50 participants on the day gained an average of 25 km compared to "normal" driving.

Nissan, a partner in the Alliance, was also honoured in the Challenge Bibendum. A Nissan LEAF won the 30 km urban rally ahead of a Citroen C-zéro and a Peugeot Ion, demonstrating the excellence of the lithium-ion battery technology developed by the Alliance.

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