Bib presents latest challenge

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Taking full advantage of magnificent venues in China’s Jaiding District – including the Shanghai International Automobile City, the Shanghai International Circuit and the College of Automotive Studies at Tonji University – this year’s Michelin Challenge Bibendum featured 150 advanced vehicles and 57 companies and organizations from all over the world.

The annual event, held in a different location each year, was created to provide an energy and emissions dialog, and a showcase/competition for advanced-technology vehicles – vehicles that conserve traditional fuels, or run on alternate fuels or power sources, and produce low emissions. The goal is to explore various means to what Michelin calls “sustainable mobility,” which includes reducing dependence on fossil fuels while preserving the environment.

Participants came to compete and discuss all phases of sustainable mobility, including infrastructure, regulations, energy supplies, technological challenges, consumer needs and the impact of transportation on the environment.

In the competition phase, vehicles are scored, and awards presented, for acceleration, braking, noise, emissions and fuel economy. For passenger vehicles, additional categories include handling and crash safety.

Local emissions – those produced by vehicles as they operate – were scored, but “well-to-tire” emissions also were reported. These include pollution caused by the creation of, gathering and refining the energy source. Electric vehicles, for example, produce no pollutants as they operate, but recharging with electricity generated from coal simply transfers the pollution from the vehicle to a smokestack at another location.

Awards aren’t presented for well-to-tire emissions, since most of these aren’t within the control of participating vehicle teams. But reporting them at least gives a more comprehensive view of various technologies’ global impact.

Technologies demonstrated included gasoline, electric, hybrid-electric, solar, clean diesel, hydrogen, fuel-cell and gaseous-fuel propulsion systems.

There was no head-to-head truck competition this year. But Chevy’s Silverado “Hybrid” – not truly a hybrid, since only its gasoline engine is used to propel the vehicle – did finish with awards for acceleration, braking, noise and range. And nearly all of 15 non-North American bus teams took home at least one category award.

The awards are not, Michelin insists, a testament to the virtues of any particular technology. The idea, says the company, is not to pick one superior vehicle, but to compare current performance standards to those afforded by a variety of new technologies.

So the evolution continues. Overall, vehicle performance was up, and local emissions down, compared to last year’s results. And with advances like lithium-ion batteries, the future – especially for electric and hybrid-electric vehicles – looks even more promising.

No, diesel won’t be replaced anytime soon as the prime motivator for trucks. But events like Challenge Bibendum can help ensure that new technologies will be ready when the time comes.