2003 Challenge Bibendum
The triumph of the 2003 Challenge Bibendum! More than 80 of the 108 participating vehicles rally across the Golden Gate Bridge and stage at Crissy Field. Photo: Richard Dole. Click image to enlarge

By Richard Russell

Sonoma, California – Colour California green – at least the northern part of the state where more than 100 vehicles from 15 manufacturers participated in the largest environmental event in the world – the 2003 Michelin Challenge Bibendum, September 23rd to 25th.

This was the fifth annual competition for environmentally-positive passenger and commercial vehicles from the world’s major automakers, organized and hosted by Michelin, and only the second time it has visited North America. Centered at Sonoma’s Infineon Raceway, it was the largest Challenge Bibendum yet with participation from Audi, BMW, DaimlerChrysler, Freightliner, General Motors, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Isuzu Truck, Nissan, Peugeot, Toyota, Volkswagen, Volvo, and Volvo Truck.

A huge variety of production and concept vehicles were available for testing and ride n’ drive opportunities. They were joined at the raceway by more than 35 technology displays. The annual event has become widely respected as an opportunity for policy makers, designers, scientists, manufacturers, suppliers and the media from 30 countries to witness and discuss the variety of options being evaluated toward environmentally sustainable mobility.

Challenge Bibendum is unique in that it offers an objective platform for a variety of technological solutions and energy sources to come together and compete in real-world conditions. It is open to all automobile and transport players, from manufacturers to energy suppliers, public and private companies, universities and research institutes. Competing vehicles must be production models, concept cars or prototypes. A wide variety of energy sources were used: low sulphur gasoline, low sulphur diesel, natural gas, hydrogen, bio-fuels, methanol and electricity.

2003 Challenge Bibendum
Entries undergoing inspection at The 2003 Challenge
Bibendum included several electric fuel cell vehicles, such as the 2002 Mercedes-Benz A-Class and the 2002 Ford Focus ZTW. Photo: Richard Russell

2003 Challenge Bibendum
Inspectors remove the fuel tank from a heavy duty truck after overnight idling for fuel economy testing at the 2003 Challenge Bibendum. Photo: Richard Russell

2003 Challenge Bibendum
Mercedes Benz Citaro, Electric (Fuel Cell) during acceleration testing. Photo: Richard Russell
Click image to enlarge

This year’s event marked the first time heavy-duty vehicles were included and tests were devised for trucks, buses, and other special applications divided into several categories based on vehicle type and gross vehicle weight. Commercial vehicles comprise only six per cent of highway vehicles yet consume 24% of transportation fuel and contribute to 60% of the NOx emissions. One Class 8 tractor/trailer combo travelling at 90 km/hr equals the noise of 28 cars at the same speed.

One example of possibilities in this sector was an entry from Pacific Gas & Electric – a natural-gas powered Freightliner FL-70 heavy duty crew cab truck. By replacing the truck’s standard diesel engine and diesel-powered air compressor with a John Deere 8.1 litre natural-gas-fueled engine, PG&E reduced nitrogen oxide emissions 50%, particulates by 80% and carbon monoxide by nearly 90%. The John Deere engines, usually found in school busses, produce 250 horsepower and 800 lb. ft. of torque.

Each class of commercial vehicle was evaluated in four specific categories: emissions, noise, fuel economy and acceleration. Fuel use during overnight idling for Class 8 trucks was also measured. They completed the same 160 kilometre round-trip drive route as the other vehicles. Other tests performed on all vehicles included: exhaust emissions, acceleration, braking, slalom and drive-by-noise.

Innovation is the name of the game. Power sources included electric, bio-diesel, CNG (Compressed Natural Gas), LPG, propane, ethanol and gaseous hydrogen in stand-alone applications or a variety of hybrid configurations.

Natural gas, commonly used for household heating, can also be used as an automotive fuel burning cleanly and producing less CO2. LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas) is a byproduct of the oil refining process offering a compromise between the cleanliness of natural gas and the storage properties of gasoline. Gasoline has fueled the growth of the last century and remains the most promising fuel for the next few decades thanks to advances in engine technology and the gradual availability of cleaner, low-sulphur gas. Diesel fuel has made great progress in recent years thanks to a combination of new injection technology, particulate filters and cleaner (low sulphur) fuel. Biofuels obtained by cultivating and processing biomass, behave similarly to their fossil equivalents but produce less CO2. Hydrogen, when combined with oxygen through either oxidation or combustion, produces only water, making it the primary subject for clean-engine thinking as either a primary fuel for internal combustion engines or for use in fuel cells where it can be converted to electricity.

Fuel cells played a prominent role at this year’s event in everything from compact cars to public transit busses, including one from Canada’s Ballard Power Systems. Ballard is one of the world’s leading fuel cell developers. Electricity continues to play a major role in future mobility despite the lack of efficient storage device (battery) development. Electric motors produce large amounts of torque from rest, they are quiet, efficient and clean. Electricity to power these motors can be obtained from batteries, solar panels or fuel cells.

Diesels were also popular, ranging from the massive Class 8 rigs to a tiny 800-cc turbo diesel passenger car. The trick here is the use of cleaner low-sulphur diesel fuels available now in Europe.

Cars, minivans, full-size vans, SUVs, pickups, school busses, public transit busses and massive three-axle tractor-trailers drove to the state capital in Sacramento for an executive briefing for industry and policy makers before competing in tests at the raceway. Challenge Bibendum 2003 culminated with a 100-mile road rally through the Sonoma Valley and across the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco.

For more information visit the Challenge Bibendum website at www.challengebibendum.com

List of participants

2003 Challenge Bibendum registered participants included 11 fuel cell vehicles, 18 hydrogen powered vehicles and an even split between prototypes and production models.

AC Propulsion 2003 AC Propulsion tzero Electric
  Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid
American Biofuels Chevrolet Geo Metro Bio-diesel
  Chevrolet Geo Metro Bio-diesel
American Honda 2003 Acura MDX Touring ICE / Gasoline
  2003 Honda ACCORD EX ICE / Gasoline
  2003 Honda CIVIC GX ICE CNG
  2003 Honda CIVIC HYBRID CVT Hybrid Gasoline / Electric

  2003 Honda ELEMENT 2 WD EX ICE / Gasoline
  2003 Honda FCX Fuel Cell Gaseous Hydrogen
  2003 Honda Insight Hybrid Gasoline / Electric
Anuvu Suzuki Esteem Hybrid Gaseous Hydrogen
Audi 2003 Audi A8 4.0 TDI quattro ICE / Diesel
DaimlerChrysler 2004 Chrysler PT Cruiser Bio-diesel
  2004 Chrysler PT Cruiser Bio-diesel
  2004 Chrysler Voyager Bio-diesel
  2004 Chrysler Voyager Bio-diesel
  2004 Dodge Ram 2500 Bio-diesel
  2004 Dodge Ram 2500 Bio-diesel
  2002 Mercedes-Benz F-Cell A-Class Fuel Cell / Gaseous Hydrogen
  Mercedes-Benz Citaro Fuel Cell / Gaseous Hydrogen
Coqueline Courreges 2002 Courreges La Bulle r Electric
Ebus Inc. 2003 Ebus Vintage Trolley Electric Motor
ECD Ovonics 2003 Toyota Prius ICE / Gaseous Hydrogen
Fairfield-Suisun United School District    
  2002 International School Bus ICE / Diesel
Ford Motor Company 2003 Ford Focus FCV Fuel Cell / Gaseous Hydrogen
  2003 Ford Focus FCV Fuel Cell / Gaseous Hydrogen
  2003 Ford Focus H2ICE ICE Gaseous Hydrogen
  2003 Ford Focus H2RV Hybrid / Gaseous Hydrogen
  2003 Ford MY E-350 Wagon CNG
Freightliner LLC 2000 Century Class Day Cab Diesel
  Freightliner LLC Century S/T Diesel
General Motors 000 Chevrolet Malibu ICE / Gasoline
  Chevrolet S10-Pick-up Truck Electric
  2002 FIAT STILO ICE / Diesel
  2002 GM Hy-Wire Fuel Cell / Gaseous Hydrogen
  2003 GMC SIERRA Hybrid Electric
  2001 GMC Sierra ICE / Gasoline
  2002 GMC Yukon ICE / Ethanol (E85)
  2002 Opel Zafira Fuel Cell Liquid Hydrogen
  2003 Saturn VUE ICE / Gasoline
  2003 Saturn VUE ICE / Gasoline
  2001 Gillig Standard Floor 40′ Hybrid Electric
Harris Ranch Feeding Company    
  2000 Freightliner 3-Axle Tractor/Trailer Liquid Natural Gas
Hyundai 2001 Santa Fe FCEV Fuel Cell / Gaseous Hydrogen
  2002 Santa Fe FCHEV Fuel Cell Gaseous Hydrogen
Intergalactic Hydrogen/Institute of Ecolonomics    
  Toyota Tacoma ICE / Gaseous Hydrogen
Isuzu Motors Inc. and Westport Innovations Inc.    
  2003 Isuzu Motors Ltd. Elf CNG-DI Compressed Natural Gas
Michigan Tech Future Truck    
  2002 Ford Hybrid Explorer Hybrid Electric
Napa Valley School District    
  Blue Bird Electric Transit School Bus Electric Motor
Nissan North America 004 Nissan Altima Gasoline
  2002 Nissan Hypermini Electric Motor (6 cars)
  2004 Nissan Murano Gasoline
  2004 Nissan Murano Gasoline
  2004 Nissan Sentra Gasoline
  2004 Nissan Sentra Gasoline
  Nissan Xterra FCV Hybrid / Gaseous Hydrogen
Norcal Sanitary Fill/Cummins Westport Inc.    
  2001 Peterbilt 378 Daycab Liquid Natural Gas (LNG)
Pacific Gas & Electric 2001 Freightliner Fl 70 Compressed Natural Gas
Robert Bosch Corp. 2004 Audi A8 TDI quattro ICE / Diesel
  2003 BMW 330d ICE / Diesel
  2004 BMW 530d ICE / Diesel
  2003 BMW 740d ICE / Diesel
  2003 BMW X5 3.0d ICE / Diesel
  2003 Mercedes E 320d ICE / Diesel
  2003 Mini ONE D ICE / Diesel
  2001 Peugeot 607 Hdi ICE / Diesel
  2003 Volkswagen Passat TDI 4motion ICE / Diesel
  2003 Volkswagen Touareg V10 TDI ICE / Diesel
  2002 Volvo S80 D5 ICE / Diesel
  2003 Volvo XC90 D5 ICE / Diesel
SAM 2001 Ford Crown Victoria LPG/Propane
SoMo Solar Motions SoMo Electric
The Ecological Engine Company    
  2000 Westfield Seight LPG/Propane
  LTI Fairway Driver LPG/Propane
Thor/ISE Fuel Cell Bus 2001 ElDorado EZ Rider Low Floor Hybrid/Gaseous Hydrogen
Toyota 2004 Lexus RX 330 ICE / Gasoline
  2004 Toyota Camry PZEV ICE / Gasoline
  2003 Toyota FCHV Fuel Cell/Gaseous Hydrogen
  2003 Toyota FCHV Fuel Cell/Gaseous Hydrogen
  2004 Toyota Prius Hybrid
  2003 Toyota Prius Hybrid
  2004 Toyota Sienna ICE / Gasoline
U.S. EPA 2003 Ford F550 Hybrid / Diesel
UC Davis HEV Center 2000 Chevrolet Suburban Hybrid / Gasoline
  2002 Ford Explorer Hybrid / Ethanol (E85)
  Ford Taurus Hybrid / Electricity
  Mercury Sable Hybrid / Electricity
University of Wisconsin 2002 Ford Explorer Hybrid / Bio-diesel
  Mercury Sable Hybrid / Bio-diesel
Volvo Cars 2003 Volvo S60 PZEV ICE / Gasoline
  2002 Volvo S80 CNG Bifuel Compressed Natural Gas
  2002 Volvo V70 CNG Bi-Fuel Compressed Natural Gas
  2004 Volvo V70 PZEV ICE / Gasoline
  2003 Volvo V70 PZEV Wagon ICE / Gasoline
  2004 Volvo S60 PZEV ICE / Gasoline
Volvo Trucks North America

  2002 Volvo VNM ICE / Diesel
  2003 Volvo VN780 Tech Truck ICE / Diesel
ZAP 2004 Zap Heibao HV Electric Motor
  2003 Zap LUV Electric Motor

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