In the years since Soviet rule ended in Russia, the number of cars on its roads have steadily increased, driving pollution and congestion to unimaginable levels. 

Now Yo-Auto, the same Russian company responsible for the Yo-Mobile Hybrid Electric Car -- a vehicle already as synonymous in Russia for eco-driving chic as the Toyota Prius brand is in the U.S. -- has unveiled its second natural-gas hybrid, a rugged, compact, crossover SUV.

But this isn’t like the spartan, agricultural, bomb-proof Lada Niva that has a loyal following around the world. Nor is it like the copy-cat green cars that come out of China. 

Instead, the Yo-Mobile CUV is powered by an internal combustion engine that can run on either gasoline or compressed natural gas. 

It even comes complete with its own GSM modem, allowing Yo-Mobile to offer remote diagnostics, assistance and route guidance in a system similar to General Motors’ OnStar.

Rather than transmit the power directly to the wheels, the Yo-Mobile CUV’s internal combustion engine is mechanically linked to an electric generator. 

Power is then fed electronically to the car’s twin traction motors, one for each axle. Any excess power generated by the engine is fed to a dual bank of high-capacity super-capacitors, which take the place of a traditional, hybrid traction battery. 

By replacing the hybrid traction battery with super-capacitors, Yo-Auto not only reduces the weight of its CUV, but also reduces the cost of building the car. 

The trade off, unfortunately, is a very limited range in all-electric mode. Acceleration isn’t all that exciting either, taking 10 seconds to reach 62 mph.

According to Yo-Auto, the gas mileage of the Yo-Mobile CUV is somewhere around 3.5 liters per 100 km on the European test-cycle. That equates to somewhere around 67 mpg U.S., with a range of 430.

Why use compressed natural gas instead of gasoline? Aside from the obvious environmental benefits, a compressed natural-gas car allows Russians to make use of Russia’s plentiful supply of natural gas.

Yo-Auto says the Yo-Mobile CUV should be available to buy in Russia y the end of 2012, at an estimated price of between $10,000 and $15,000.  

Availability? That’s harder to tell, since some sources claim the hybrid CUV is back-ordered for the next decade.

Our thoughts? From what we can see, the Yo-Mobile CUV is about as far away from the old-Soviet era cars as it is possible to get. 

Apart perhaps from one thing. Like Trabant, the erstwhile satellite of the East-German automotive industry before the Berlin Wall fell, the Yo-Mobile doesn’t use metal for its body. 

Instead, it uses panels made from polypropylene. Unlike the highly-toxic Duroplast that formed the Trabant’s body, the Yo-Mobile’s body panels that can be safely compacted and recycled at the end of the car’s life. 


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