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Russian tycoon unveils prototype hybrid car

posted 13 Dec 2010, 11:42 by Mpelembe   [ updated 13 Dec 2010, 11:43 ]

A Russian billionaire has entered the hybrid car market, unveiling an electric and gas prototype that he hopes to be selling for less than 10,000 US dollars within two years.

The Russian billionaire owner of U.S. basketball team, the New Jersey Nets, unveiled a prototype of the first Russian car with a hybrid engine on Monday (December 13), operating on a combination of electricity and liquid petroleum gas (LPG).

Branded the Yo, which is written in Russian with an E with two dots over it, the privately-funded project is a joint venture between Mikhail Prokhorov's holding company, Onexim group, and the carmaker Yarovit-Motors and has government backing.

The car is expected to be produced at a special plant that is to be built in the Russian city of Togliatti, home to Russian Lada production.

"We plan to launch first factory with 10,000 cars capacity in the second half of 2012," Prokhorov said presenting three prototypes -- a two-door car, a 5 seater van and a small truck.

With a lightweight basalt fibre and aluminium frame, the car will weigh just 700kg and use a miserly 3.5 litres of fuel per 100 km.

"This is a trendy stylish car and what is most important that the market can't appreciate at the moment the operation of this car will be much cheaper. We plan for the price not to exceed 10,000 U.S. dollars in the simplest design," he said.

The price will be held down by a simplified production process with vehicles being assembled from ready made modules.

After jokes that 2 metres (6,8 feet) tall Prokhorov would not fit in the compact vehicle, the tycoon squeezed in saying the car was comfortable though his knees could well be seen rising above the control panel.

Prokhorov plans to invest 150 mln euros (200 million U.S. dollars) into the project and hopes it would start to bring profit in the the next 4 to 5 years.

The scheme comes at a time of growing wealth and industrialisation in Russia. With increased air pollution from traffic one consequence of the growth, President Dmitry Medvedev has called for greater efforts to reduce the country's dependence on hydrocarbon based fuels.

Prokhorov says it's a tall order, but he's equal to the task.