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green@work : Magazine : Back Issues : Winter 2003 : Happenings


Progress is Possible
Challenge Bibendum 2004 proves that innovative thinking and advanced technology make sustainable mobility a real-world concept.

The sixth annual Challenge Bibendum—the annual showcase for sustainable road mobility—opened on October 12th in Shanghai, China, bringing together the largest players of the automotive industry along with government representatives from many countries around the world. For its Asian debut, the three-day event was attended by representatives from the government of the People’s Republic of China and from the City of Shanghai, as well as from such institutions as the French Ministry of Transport, the European Commission, the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Energy, the United Nations Environment Programme and Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport.

The sheer number of accredited journalists covering the event this year (almost 500, including over 200 Chinese journalists) testifies to the media’s interest and to the event’s growing impact.

Following Chinese tradition, Edouard Michelin, CEO of Michelin Group, officially opened Challenge Bibendum at Tongji University in Shanghai’s International Automobile City with the strike of a gong. Speeches were delivered by Han Zheng, mayor of Shanghai, and Deng Nan, vice minister, Ministry of Science and Technology. These high-ranking Chinese officials emphasized their country’s commitment to promoting clean energies, diversifying energy sources and generally ensuring their country’s sustainable development at a time when it is experiencing an unprecedented economic boom.

With 1.3 billion inhabitants and a national car fleet that is growing exponentially, China is the world’s third largest car producer and boasts an extremely buoyant market. As such it is committed to playing a major role on the global mobility scene. Fully aware of what is at stake, the country has already embarked on a strong program designed to promote cleaner vehicles. The project to meet the Euro 3 standard by 2008 testifies to the country’s determination to make traffic less polluting. It has, moreover, initiated a number of research programs based on public/private partnerships involving research laboratories, universities and industrial facilities. These are targeted, among others, at electric, hybrid and fuel-cell powered vehicles.

This year’s Challenge Bibendum fostered a valuable exchange of views between China and participating automobile producers and energy and equipment suppliers as evidenced by the meetings held on opening day. Speakers stressed the importance of cooperation between public and private sectors in order to bring about better mobility.

Created in 1998 by Michelin Group to mark the 100th anniversary of Bibendum, the “Michelin Man,” Challenge Bibendum has quickly become a premier forum for industry, policymakers and experts to review the latest technologies and progress made in the area of alternative energies. This unique event also serves as a testing ground and is the only one that showcases concept cars featuring technologies often never unveiled before.

This year, 106 companies—40 percent from China—came to Shanghai. Some 140 vehicles were registered, including passenger cars, electric two-wheels and buses, of which 79 submitted to real-world tests in a friendly atmosphere. The world’s largest automakers presented vehicles equipped with the latest innovations, including the hybrid Volkswagen “Sun Diesel” Golf IV, Ford Escape Hybrid, Opel Zafira Hydrogen 3, Nissan X-Trail FCV, Peugeot Quark and Audi’s A8 TDI.

The trend was clearly in favor of electric cars. Thanks to new lithium batteries, their range now reaches 400km of autonomy. This technological progress has facilitated the design of some amazing vehicles such as the Courrèges EXE and the Volvo 3CC, which feature acceleration on par with top sports cars while emitting no pollution. China contributed several vehicles developed by universities. Electric cars are, in fact, a big focus of research in China, as are hybrid technologies and hydrogen. In a nutshell, all promising fuel-cell technologies worldwide were represented at this year’s Challenge Bibendum.

Michelin also unveiled two concept cars: the Michelin HY-LIGHT, an illustration of its vision for hydrogen powered cars developed in partnership with the Paul Scherrer Institut (PSI), which is especially light and efficient; and the Michelin CONCEPT, which demonstrates how electromechanical systems associated with electronic controls can be used to improve road holding and comfort.

Challenge Bibendum 2004 concluded with a high-level symposium organized with the support of the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) and the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), with the close cooperation of Total and Ford. Among the distinguished participants were industry representatives, key policymakers and delegates from non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

Plenary sessions and technical workshops provided experts and media an opportunity to exchange views and experience on topics concerning vehicles (advanced internal combustion engine and hybrid electric vehicles; advanced electric battery and fuel cell vehicles; advanced systems for transportation and safety) and energy types (fossil fuels, biofuels, electricity and hydrogen).

The “Mobility 2030” report recently issued by the WBCSD clearly indicated that if things continued at the current rate, then worldwide energy consumption would double and global pollution would worsen, negatively affecting the public health situation in emerging countries. This would happen within the context of increasing urbanization as the world will witness the growth of over 30 megapolises and developing nations will register 300 cities counting over one million inhabitants by 2015. The report concludes that action must be taken now because positive results would likely require half a century to take effect.

Is it too late to change? Not according to the participants at Challenge Bibendum 2004, who underscored many interesting development trends from technological developments to the willingness of public authorities to reinforce their environmental regulations. The importance of city planning and infrastructure was also identified as a key challenge for rapidly motorizing countries. The critical issue is that mobility must become ever more respectful of the environment and responsive to all people’s needs.

For more information about Challenge Bibendum 2004 and to view photography of the concept vehicles displayed, visit

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