Putin rides first Russian hybrid car to see Medvedev

Avid car lover Putin drove Russia`s first gasoline-electric hybrid car to visit Medvedev.

Novo-Ogaryovo, Russia: Avid car lover and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin drove Russia`s first gasoline-electric hybrid car on Friday to visit political partner President Dmitry Medvedev.

Called Yo-mobile, the car is a personal project of billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, who has said it could bring Russia a competitive edge in the global automotive industry, where the country is better known for its boxy Lada cars.

"I would like to drive your Yo-mobile to Dmitry Anatolievich (Medvedev), and show it to him ... I hope your Yo-mobile will not fall apart on the way," Putin told Prokhorov at a meeting just outside of Moscow.

About 5 kilometres (3 miles) separate Putin`s Novo-Ogaryovo country residence, nestled in a pine forest outside Moscow, from Medvedev`s home in Gorki.

The car, whose name is a play on a Russian swear word, drives both on petrol and natural gas.

It has a rotary engine and uses ultra capacitators, an energy-storing device seen as an alternative to lithium-ion batteries, which are installed on all other hybrid cars currently in production.

The capacitators store energy they receive directly from the engine and do not require re-charging from a power network. "Lithium-ion batteries are a mistake, a dead-end," said the car`s developer Andrei Biryukov.

Prokhorov said the Yo-mobile is to go into mass production in the second half of 2012, and expects to produce 10,000 cars a year. The car will burn 3.5 litres of fuel per 100 km and will cost about 450,000 roubles ($15,860).

Putin, who as head of government had backed state aid worth billions of dollars to Russia`s struggling automotive industry, often appears behind the wheel in public.

Most of the state aid, allocated in 2009, went to the Soviet-era behemoth AvtoVAZ, which produces the Lada.

Last year Putin tried to drum up support for Ladas by driving a bright yellow Lada Kalina some 2,000 km in Russia`s Siberia and Far East. He also raced in a Formula One car made by Renault, a shareholder in AvtoVAZ.

Bureau Report