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Hybrid car makes city driving quick and clean

Eureka project MINIMOBIL produces a new compact city car

EUREKA project E! 2512 MINIMOBIL has developed a vehicle specifically designed for life in Europe's congested cities that uses a hybrid drive combining the environmental benefits of an electric motor with the range of a petrol engine. The compact city car relieves congested roads and reduces urban pollution. The MINIMOBIL measures a slim two by one metres, and is little bigger than a motorbike. It is ideal for swiftly moving through traffic, while doors positioned at the front and back make parking simple in fact four MINIMOBILs can fit into a standard parking space. "MINIMOBIL is designed to cater for the needs of personal city transport where typically one person is travelling only, with options to cater for more passengers, luggage or sports equipment when needed," explains Jiri Hofman, project manager at Czech lead partner Dioss Elcom Spol. Low emission solution Developed by partners from Austria and the Czech Republic, with a budget of 1.05 million, MINIMOBIL is set to succeed where other electric cars have faltered because it has overcome the problems of short operating range, heavy expensive batteries, long charging time and poor heating by using a hybrid drive. The MINIMOBIL can travel 30 to 50 km by battery alone and up to 350 km when using its low emission petrol engine as well. The hybrid drive is the heart of the MINIMOBIL, combining an internal combustion engine and an electric motor driven by rechargeable batteries. It offers low energy consumption and low emissions as the hybrid drive uses the environmentally clean electric motor for starting and braking about 30% of the total journey and can drive the vehicle continuously at speeds of up to 60 km/h. When more power, higher speeds or longer distances are required, the drive switches to the more powerful petrol engine. If the driver is confident of a recharging source, the electric motor can be used for city journeys of up to 30 km. Alternatively, preference can be given to the petrol engine, not only saving battery power but also recharging it during the journey. This option is ideal for longer journeys or when a recharging source cannot be guaranteed. Environmental benefits "Energy consumption and emissions are much lower in a MINIMOBIL, as it cuts pollutants considerably through use of the electric motor," says Hofman. "Its low weight half that of an average small car and compactness ease city driving and parking. In addition, the MINIMOBIL is a very flexible vehicle. The back cabin is adaptable and can be adjusted in stages to carry passengers, shopping or luggage. It can also accommodate wheelchairs, or a ski or bike carrier. A third prototype is currently being produced as further partners are being sought to fill the expected huge demand for MINIMOBIL vehicles. Initial production will be several thousands of cars, and this is expected to grow to hundreds of thousands, once the vehicles are commercially launched. "EUREKA played a vital role in the development of the MINIMOBIL," adds Hofman. "It not only helped us to find the partner we needed, but also gave the project increased recognition and credibility. We've already had considerable interest from the USA, but want to launch the MINIMOBIL first in Europe. More information: Jiri Hofman, Dioss Elcom Spol. Sro, 30136 Pilsen, Czech Republic; phone: +420 19 722 1063; fax: +420 19 723 6616; email: jhofman@volny.czThe EUREKA Initiative aims to strengthen European competitiveness by promoting cross-border, market-oriented, collaborative R&D. It enables industry and research institutes from 35 member countries and the EU to collaborate in a bottom-up approach to developing and exploiting innovative technologies. EUREKA is marking 20 years of pan-European innovation in 2005. Since 1985, substantial public and private funding has been deployed through this intergovernmental network to support leading edge R&D. More information about EUREKA may be found at: www.eureka.be while additional information about 20 years of EUREKA can be found at: http://www.eureka-20years.net