When he's not driving a Renault Formula 1 car or a locally-made Chrysler Sebring, Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin test drives hybrid cars – or at least that's what he did on April 1 (no, really), when he got behind the wheel of the country’s first hybrid vehicle, the Yo-Mobile. Built by Yo-Auto, a joint-venture between truck maker Yarovit Motors and Onexim Group, the company of Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov who also owns the New Jersey Nets, the car has an unusual hybrid setup. It uses a rotary vane engine (see video below) that works on petrol and natural gas and is linked to a pair of electric motors.
Instead of a classic battery-pack, the Yo-Mobile uses a super-capacitor, which is an energy-storing device seen by Russian engineers as an alternative to lithium-ion batteries. The capacitor stores the energy produced by the engine and sends it to the electric motors that drive the car. The main advantage of the capacitor is that it doesn't require re-charging from a power network.
The Russian hybrid returns an average fuel consumption of 3.5 liters/100 km (67.2 mpg) and has a combined driving range of 1,100 km (683.5 miles). It accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h (62mph) in 7-8 seconds and can reach a top speed of 130 km/h (80.8 mph).
Set to be built in three different body styles (hatchbach, cross-coupe and a van) from the second half of 2012, the Russian hybrid will retail for $12,000 - $15,000 (€8,500 - €10,500). The most expensive model will have four-wheel drive, satellite navigation system, cruise-control and climate control.
Before getting behind the wheel of the hybrid cross-coupe to drive it to president Medvedev's residence, Putin said to Prokhorov: "I hope your Yo-Mobile will not fall apart on the way." Luckily for the Russian billionaire, it didn't. Scroll down to see Putin's ride
By Dan Mihalascu