Billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov plans to unveil prototypes of Russia’s first hybrid electric car this year as the government tries to reduce the country’s reliance on natural resources. Prokhorov’s Onexim Group will invest 150 million euros ($204 million) in a joint venture with Russian truck maker Yarovit and roll out three electric car prototypes in December, said Dmitry Razumov, Onexim’s chief executive officer. The venture will set up several production facilities in Russia and abroad, Razumov said. It will begin building the first factory in January 2011 and expects to ‘break even on the operational level” once production starts in mid-2012, he said.
Prokhorov, Russia’s second-richest man, whose business interests range from gold mining to a U.S. basketball team, last month won approval from Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to build one of the planned electric car factories in Tolyatti, where state-run automaker AvtoVAZ is based. Putin has vowed to support new high-tech projects and scientific research, as he wants to wean the world’s biggest energy producer off its fossil fuel dependency.
Andrei Biryukov, president of the Yarovit holding company, said the new car will weigh about a third as much as “the smallest cars that are produced now,” and will cost between 300,000 rubles ($10,300) and 450,000 rubles. In the beginning, the car will run on both normal gasoline and methane, he said. “I don’t see a real application for this project at the moment,” Andrey Rozhkov, an analyst at IFC Metropol, said in a phone interview from Moscow. “There is no infrastructure ready for it and Russians are not used to the idea of a light vehicle given the number of car accidents in Russia.”
Prokhorov’s new venture will compete with companies including Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz unit, General Motors and Renault, which also have said they will offer electric vehicles.