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Sun 2 Mar 2008 04:00 AM

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Big green monster

Tom Bird drives the latest taxi, the eco-friendly Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid.

Tom Bird drives the latest taxi, the eco-friendly Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid.

Dubai 6000 taxis performing over 1.2million trips a month across the Emirate. Needless to say, all those kms produce a significant amount of emissions - something which the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) is keen to address. By the year 2012 it plans to replace all taxis with alternative-powered vehicles be the bioethanol, biodiesel or even hybrids.

General Motors has stepped up to the RTA's challenge by offering five Chevrolet Malibu hybrid saloons and five Chevy Tahoe hybrid SUVs that are being trialled on the streets of Dubai over the next 12 months.

The reason for so few? Hybrid technology is more susceptible to high-temperatures than normal petrol-engined cars, so the RTA and 40 of its drivers will be running the cars for evaluation purposes to see how they cope in the heat.

I recently tried the Chevrolet Tahoe hybrid myself - but not in ideal ‘Dubai' conditions. I was in Detroit and the temperatures there were very close to freezing.

The Tahoe hybrid uses a 6.0-litre V8 engine coupled with electric motors inside the car's transmission. A complex set of electronics decides whether to use the V8, electric motors, or a combination of the two. In addition, the V8 can also run in reduced V4 mode to cut on petrol consumption.

The result of these complex electronics is a 25-30 percent improvement in fuel economy, and it works especially well in heavy traffic where the electric motors really come into play.

Driving the Tahoe hybrid was particularly undramatic - the only indication that you're in a hybrid is the lack of engine noise when running under electric power. It's a bit eerie at first, but you soon get used to it. Other than that, it's just like a regular Tahoe.

All that's needed now is more manufacturers to accept RTA's challenge. Toyota? Honda?

NEED TO KNOWChevrolet Tahoe Hybrid

Price:$36,000 (est). Hybrid not for public sale at the moment.

Engine:5967cc 32v V8, 332bhp @ 5100rpm, 367lb ft @ 4100rpm

Transmission:CVT with four fixed ratios, four-wheel drive

Performance: 12.5sec 0-100kph, 200kph, 13.4L/100km (est)

On sale in ME:2009


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