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Michelin Challenge Bibendum 2011 - Charged!




Volvo’s take on the electric hatchback is in the form of the C30 Electric, an eco-friendly version of their gorgeous C30 compact. Shortly available on lease for what is rumoured to be a steep ¤1,500 per month, the electric C30 is proudly hailed as one of the safest electric cars you can drive today. A 2+2 seating configuration coupled with cramped interiors kill the buzz somewhat when you first get inside this funky-looking Swedish hatch but the driving part makes up for it. Powered by 84 KW compact electric motors, it does 0-100 kmph in roughly 12 seconds and provides decent get-up-and-go with four people on board. It isn’t as lively to drive as the smaller Peugeot iON or something similar, but instead feels like a well-built everyday hatchback that would stand up to years of real-world use. Moreover, the crash safety videos Volvo displayed added a new dimension to electric car safety. Literally. On 3D displays, you can tell Volvo is confident of proclaiming the C30 to be one of the safest electric cars around. Now only if they could work on those steep lease payments.

RANGE: 150 km
CARD CHARGE? Undeclared. Rumoured to be expensive.



Ah, the excitement before the drive was inevitable — the Nissan Leaf is the first electric car to win the prestigious World Car Of The Year award and it could well be a milestone. If you wanted to put a finger on one proper car which brought the all-electric concept to the mass market, this would be it. First impressions first — the Leaf is incredibly cutting-edge, spacious and roomy on the inside, quite a shift from the cramped little electric roundabout image we have in our heads. The differentiator — the Leaf was designed ground-up as an electric and it shows. On the road, the instantaneous power delivery and the overall sedateness attached to the driving experience is quite a revelation — relaxing the driver is what it does best. Equally impressive is the technology integration — remotely control your car, get real-time driving feedback, locate the nearest charging point and get access to a host of entertainment options. If this is the future of family hatchbacks, we rather like it.

RANGE: 175 km
FULL CHARGING TIME: 8 hours. 80 per cent in 30 minutes with fast charge
CARD CHARGE? $33,930



Include the Mitsubishi i-MiEV as well in that heading because it’s essentially the same car with different French branding and subtle tweaks here and there. But boy, is it good or what. If there is one car that I think will suit urban India out of the lot, this would be it. It’s an incredibly space-efficient design that packs in four-doors and four-seats with reasonably generous space for all. It’s anything but a golf buggy on the road — it feels so spritely and nimble that you’re left giggling as you throw it around tight corners, the thick step-less spread of torque right from zero rpm making the experience even more pleasant. Much to the discomfort of the French representative in the car, I thoroughly enjoyed throwing the car around and would gladly say that most of us wouldn’t need anything more in urban environs. The slated range is 150 km, depending on your driving and Peugeot claims it does the 30-60 kmph dash quicker than a 150 bhp hot hatch. The interesting bit here is you can lease it for roughly ¤450 a month, full service included.

RANGE: 150 km
CARD CHARGE? ¤450 a month, all inclusive.




Three innovations that will make your life easier in the near future


Installed on the Suzuki Splash aka Ritz, it’s an integrated package that has the regenerative braking, electric power and suspension components all within the compact dimensions of the wheel rim. The advantages are incredible — from interior space, adaptability and economics to superior handling, power, fuel efficiency and eco-friendliness. Look out for this one!


A huge sigh of relief for all. Michelin has developed a polymer-lined tyre that will be “puncture proof” without significantly affecting other tyre performance parameters. Mind you, unlike run-flats or self-sealing tyres, Michelin says their polymer fills any puncture that occurs. Oh, bless the scientists for this one.


Energy saving tyres not only cut fuel consumption and emissions, they also need less raw materials to produce, are more robust and provide more grip. Michelin’s own energy saving XM2 will be coming to our market by this year-end and will feature their nature-inspired IRONflex technology that increases robustness and sidewall solidity. Plus, they claim 5 per cent fuel savings over the last generation XM1 tyres.