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Russian billionaire unveils three ë-Auto hybrid prototypes

A Russian billionaire has unveiled three potentially revolutionary hybrid vehicle prototypes that he plans to launch in 2012.
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Mikhail Prokhorov, the owner of the New Jersey Nets basketball team, is the sole financial backer of the hybrid venture known as ‘Yo’ (the pronunciation of the Russian letter ‘ë’).

Mr Prokhorov revealed the ë-cross-coupe, ë-mikroven and ë-van concepts, which all use the use the same hybrid platform and technology.

The hybrid system incorporates a small rotary engine and two electric motors, mounted on either axle. The engine can run on both petrol and natural gas and acts as a generator to either drive the electric motors or fill a small bank of capacitors with charge.

The ë-cross-coupe and ë-mikroven both weigh 700kg and use fuel at a rate of just 3.5 litres/100km. Acceleration from 0-100km/h is an equally impressive 8.0 seconds.

The larger ë-van weighs an extra 50kg and fuel consumption increases to 4.0 litres/100km. Its sprint time is almost double that of its smaller siblings at 15.0 seconds.

All three will eventually go on to reach a top speed of 130km/h and have an enormously impressive range just shy of 1100km when both the petrol and gas tanks are filled.

The first of the ë vehicles is expected to go on sale around mid-2012, with a starting price of just $14,500.

In an interview with the New York Times, Mr Prokhorov said he was determined to help do away with the stereotype of the poorly made Russian car.

“Don’t forget that in Russia we were the first to put man in space,” he said. “Unfortunately, in the last 50 years, we are playing from behind a little bit.”

Mr Prokhorov is investing enormous amounts of money in the venture, and will give Russian manufacturer ë-Auto 150 million euros ($197 million) to begin production of the vehicles.

Initial production is expected to be limited to 10,000 units per year, with sales confined to the Russian domestic market.

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