Great Race 2008: Window on the Future?

Re-enactment of 1908 race will prove the mettle of electric-drive and alternative fuel vehicles.

Published: 13-Feb-2008

This week we celebrate the centennial of the 22,000-mile New York to Paris race of 1908. It was a test of man, machine and where to find gasoline. It was tough enough to locate a gas station in the rural United States back then; imagine how much more difficult it was in Japan — where they had never seen an automobile — or the uninhabited expanses of Siberia.

Fast-forward now to next May 30 when up to 40 teams plan to head out on a re-creation of the event — what they call The Great Race 2008. The race will consist of three classes, including vintage machines, alternative fuel burners and hybrid vehicles. Although gasoline will be little or no problem to find now, some of the “green” machines participating will be pioneering a frontier as uncharted as it was for the gasoline-burners of 1908. For that reason, advocates of sustainable mobility solutions will be eagerly watching.

“We will have cars running on up to five different fuels,” said Mike Ewing, a spokesman for the race organizers. “Biodiesel, ethanol, methane, propane and, of course, gasoline. We can’t have anything too exotic, such as hydrogen, which we are not allowed to use in China. We will also have hybrid-electric and plug-in hybrids.”


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GM showed hybrid and fuel cell models, along with vehicles that can run on E85, a mix of gasoline and ethanol. Pictured is Katherine Heigl leading Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid down runway. Other GM vehicles included less fuel-efficient Escalade and Hummer2.


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