The “Michelin Man” will never lose air, but he always loves to host a blowout! The Michelin Challenge Bibendum “rally” is sponsored by the Michelin tire company, or Michelin Group, which in Europe is based in Claremont-Ferrand, France. The rally was supplanted by viewable technical tests, conference roundtable discussions, forums, demonstrations, and chances for attendees to test-drive various advanced fuel-saving vehicles. These vehicles were the product of many different car companies, as well as universities and private groups. At the 2006 Bibendum Challenge, numerous alternatively-powered cars, a garbage truck, a bus, a go-kart, and an electric-powered bicycle were on display. This year was the eighth annual installment of the event and included a 120-mile rally race into Paris to the Eiffel Tower and back.
The Michelin Challenge Bibendum is a worldwide program, or event rally, held in a different country each year and seeks to promote sustainable road use, or “mobility,” with alternative fuel vehicles. “Bibendum” is the Michelin company mascot and is more well-known as the multiple-tired “Michelin Man” used in a variety of company promotions and advertisements since 1898, making him one of the oldest trademarks in existence.
Claremont-Ferrand, France, is where the first Bibendum rally was held in 1998. The car manufacturers at this year’s rally included Toyota, Mercedes-Benz, Ford, Volvo, Audi, Nissan, General Motors, and DaimlerChrysler. Public and private research organizations were represented as well.
The Bibendum Challenge focuses on vehicle fuel technologies such as hydrogen fuel cells, electric motors, a variety of alternative fuels, and many other environmentally friendly advanced technologies. This year’s rally lasted over a five-day period (June 8-12). As always, it was a proving/testing ground for a wide variety of technologies, featuring everything from in-production vehicles to advanced design concepts.
Some of the most modern advanced technologies at the Bibendum Challenge (technology that is becoming particularly popular in the United States) were hybrid vehicles, including micro hybrids, mild hybrids, and full hybrids.
A particularly interesting aspect of the internal combustion engine power sources was the capability to mix a variety of alternative fuel sources. An example of such technology was the Volvo “Multi-Fuel,” which can run on five different types of fuel (hythane, biomethane, natural gas, bioethanol E85, and gasoline). Any of these can power the five-cylinder turbo-charged engine.
Fuel cell technology was also represented by ten different types of fuel cell vehicles. As proven this year, the Bibendum Challenge is one of the most important testing grounds for alternative fuel technology.