Around-the-World Electric-Car Race Backed by UN, Google, Starts in Geneva

Vehicles powered by electricity from renewable energy began a race in Switzerland that will run for more than 80 days and cover 30,000 kilometers (18,650 miles).

The contestants, whose sponsors include the United Nations Environment Program and Google Inc., started in Geneva today and will pass through Berlin and Shanghai before resuming in Vancouver and Los Angeles, according to the event’s “Zero Race” website. The teams plan to converge on Cancun, Mexico, in time for the UN climate conference in November.

The stunt reflects a growing interest in vehicles powered by non-polluting fuels that already has spurred automobile manufacturers including Toyota Motor Co., General Motors Co. and Daimler AG to roll out plans for cars and trucks equipped with hybrid and electric motors as well as fuel cells.

Last month an experimental airplane landed safely in Switzerland after flying through the night propelled entirely by 12,000 solar cells and sunlight-powered lithium batteries.

“Such a clean-technology initiative underscores the importance of individual efforts in building a green, low-carbon future for the world,” said Achim Steiner, UNEP executive director, on the race’s website.

The vehicles taking part in the Zero Race include a two- seat electric scooter whose maker, Switzerland’s OC Oerlikon Corp. AG, says will accelerate faster than a Porsche SE 911 sports car.

The purpose of the race is to “raise public awareness, inspire and help governments and people take action towards a sustainable future,” the organizers said on the website. The winner will be judged on the vehicle’s reliability, power and speed and energy efficiency among other criteria.

The cars are required to carry two passengers and drive at least 250 kilometers at an average speed of at least 80 kilometers an hour.

To contact the reporters on this story: Jeremy van Loon in Berlin at jvanloon@bloomberg.net

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