Following six years of intensive research and development, Chang'an Automobile, the Chinese state-owned automaker, has started mass production of its mild-hybrid Jie Xun mini wagon - the first such vehicle by a Chinese car company. Estimated to consume 20% less gas than comparable conventional vehicles, the Jie Xun will come standard with regenerative braking, power assistance and a host of other functions.
A partner of Ford Motor and Mazda Motor, the Chang'an group is China's largest mini-van builder and is based in Chongqing. While demand for hybrids remains negligible in China - with most new owners opting for sportier, flashy vehicles or cheaper conventional ones (the government hasn't yet offered any incentives for their purchase) - Chang'an executives are hoping the cheaper price tag (relative to the Toyota Prius) of 150,000 yuan, roughly $20,350, will entice more potential buyers.It is only 20,000 yuan more costly than the base vehicle - and just half the Prius' price point. Built to be about the same size as Toyota's popular hybrid, the Jie Xun will be able to travel close to 62 miles, or 100 km, on 6.8 liters of fuel. The company expects to officially release it next year; ten will be donated to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
Chang'an has also announced that it plans on investing 4b yuan, or $543 million, in research and development over the next 3 years to develop hydrogen, electric and biofuel technologies.