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Racing Towards Sustainability
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How far can a car go on one-litre of gasoline? It is a challenge not only for drivers, who must pay for gas, but also for car manufacturers, who are facing strong demand from governments and the public to produce more environmentally friendly cars.


Honda Motor China is one of the car-makers in China to confront this challenge. It is showing its concern for the environment by organizing an annual Honda Econo Power Race.


The 2006 event, to be held on November 11 in Shanghai, is expected to bring to Chinese people a new concept of auto racing, which emphasizes not only speed but also energy efficiency.


"The participants will compete to maximize the energy contained in one-liter of gasoline.


The aim is to make people realize the value of energy for themselves and to learn to treasure natural resources," said Yasuo Ikenoya, managing director of Honda Motor China.


China has chosen to stage the energy efficient race for the first time following Japan and Thailand, although the country has already sent a total of 7 teams to participate in the races since 2000.


The Honda Econo Power Race, initiated in 1981, enjoys a wide popularity in countries including China, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Thailand, Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia and Russia.


With a history of 26 years, the longest distance on record for one liter of gas is 3,435.325 kilometers, which was set in the Econo Power Race in 2001.


The teams participating in the race need to construct the racing cars by themselves.


With only a 125cc engine provided by Honda, the participants are free to choose their remaining components such as outer materials and tyres, providing the car is not only energy efficient but also safe to drive in a race.


With the same quota of one-litre gasoline allocated to each racing car, the one that has the most gasoline left in the fuel tank after covering the regulated distance of the trip will be the winner.


"The experience of Honda Econo Power Race provides the opportunity to approach the latest technology in dealing with environmental problems," said Chen Li, a teacher of Tongji University's automobile college, which will lead the Tongji University team to take part in this year's race.


"With the knowledge I have gained about the Honda Econo Power Race with a history of 26 years, I am moved by the fever the Japanese have shown in environmental protection. I am inspired by their creative work and feel like having a go," said Zhang Jing, a student representing the Tongji University team.


Attracting an increasing number of teams, Econo Power race defines its charm by providing a platform to apply and test innovative technologies related to energy efficiency. It also enhances communication among different countries.


Apart from aiming to reduce energy consumption of cars and motorcycles, the world's auto giant has also done a lot of work in other areas to push forward the cause of environmental protection, ranging from building environmentally friendly plants equipped with leading-edge facilities, alleviating the density of carbon dioxide released into the air, developing sustainable resources like solar energy batteries, launching technologies for diesel-fuelled engines and applying recycled materials to the manufacture of cars.


In the coming three to five years, the Econo Power Race is expected to see wider participation from other cities of China, including Beijing and Guangzhou, after its debut in Shanghai. And more teams will be included in future races, with closer ties to universities, according to the website of Honda Motor China.


"We will spare no efforts to contribute to China's environmental protection. Taking a leading position in the auto manufacturing industry, we want to set an example for others to follow," said Yasuo Ikenoya, "It will surely generate added costs to our products, but it is worthwhile for us to maintain sustainable development in China, whose prosperity requires a balanced interaction between economic growth and environmental protection, " he added.


(China Daily October 30, 2006)

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