Hybrid cars to drive from New York to Paris


When renewable-fuel powered cars and vintage automobiles begin the 100th anniversary re-run of the famous 1908 New York to Paris “Great Race” next year, they will be joined by a group of car enthusiasts with a unique mission: promote hybrid cars by driving around the world on the least amount of fuel possible.

Ten teams driving hybrid electric cars will join the Innovation Class of next summer’s Great Race from New York to Paris and attempt to complete the almost 22,000 mile (35,000 km) course by driving as efficiently as possible. ‘Hypermilers’, as they are known, push the limits of fuel efficiency and achieve unheard of miles-per-gallon readings of as high has 100 mpg. This is the first in a series of MPG Challenges, created in partnership with Hybridfest, Inc., organizers of the nation’s largest hybrid car festival. Bill Ewing, CEO of the firm promoting the event, said he is emphasizing the Great Race to promote major improvements in fuel economy not only through technology, but also by improving personal driving habits.

The Great Race celebrates the 100th anniversary of one of the most remarkable automotive events of the 20th century, an automobile race nearly around the world, from New York to Paris in 1908. In a repeat of that milestone event, the Great Race will travel across North America, Asia and Europe in 65 days, this time featuring classic cars, renewable fuel powered cars and now hybrid cars. “Clearly the world has a big fuel problem,” said Bill Ewing, CEO of Great Race Sports, Inc., organizer of the event. "Dealing with global warming issues requires conservation as well as alternative fuels. The MPG Challenge brings attention to the importance of improving fuel economy by squeezing the most out of hybrids in a way that people relate to."

Hybridfest is a non-profit organization that promotes awareness and understanding of hybrid vehicles - cars that use two or more distinct power sources, often electric motors and a gasoline engine to propel the vehicle and achieve above average fuel economy. The organization, run entirely by volunteers, organizes an annual event, “A Hybrid Electric Car Show and More,” in Madison, Wis. “We are very excited about our involvement in creating the MPG Challenge,” said Eric Powers, president of Hybridfest. “Some of the best hypermilers in the world have already expressed interest in participating and showing the world how to do something as mind boggling as driving around the world with as little fuel as possible.”

One of the world’s leading ‘hypermilers,’ Wayne Gerdes, has already agreed to participate. Gerdes recently drove a Toyota Prius more than 1,200 Miles on a tank of gasoline. The MPG category will be a part of the Innovation Class, one of two competitive categories in The Great Race 2008: New York to Paris. Classic vehicles that are at least 25 years old are participating in the Schuster Class, named for the winning drive in the 1908 Greatest Auto Race.

The commemorative event will start May 30 in New York City and will finish in Paris, France on August 2, 2008. Following the start in New York City, The Great Race will travel across three continents and 13 countries, reaching more than a billion people. Teams participating in the MPG Challenge will attempt to achieve the best fuel economy while driving a predetermined course at assigned speeds. Commonly called a rally or regularity-driving event, the Great Race simulates real-world driving conditions that create results relevant to today’s drivers and car owners.

The 2008 Great Race commemorates an event that began on Feb. 12, 1908, when six automobiles left New York City’s Times Square to the cheers of a crowd of 250,000 in what was described by its newspaper sponsors as "the toughest race ever devised." Despite the daunting challenge of traveling poor roads in harsh weather, teams from three countries persevered in the race across North America, Asia and Europe, finishing in Paris more than five months later (two in July, one in September). It was a sensational adventure told in breathless daily newspaper dispatches and later in books and films. The event was spoofed in the 1960s Tony Curtis-Jack Lemmon movie, “The Great Race.” (duemotori.com)

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