Blog: Simon WarburtonSustaining energy the Berlin way

Simon Warburton | 19 May 2011

It's quite apt this year's Challenge Bibendum event - bringing together more than 200 exhibitors from the automotive and alternative fuel worlds - is being held at Berlin's historic Tempelhof Airport.

Challenge Bibendum focuses on sustainability and alternative fueling processes and the sustainability theme echoes perhaps Tempelhof's most famous hour - sustaining the people of Berlin during the infamous Soviet blockade of the city in 1948/49 with its air bridge.

Sadly, this once-working airport with its magnificent, Teutonic departures hall and iconic sweeping roof that is still jaw-dropping today, will now revert to a sort of theme park, but thankfully its magnificent architecture is being preserved as a throwback to what Berlin once looked like.

As I write this in the press centre overlooking the old runway - Tempelhof is right bang in the city centre - I can see dozens of vehicles - some weired some wonderful - making their way around what - for today - is one of the world's largest test tracks.

Trucks, pure Evs, hybrids, they're all here, even Shell's amazing Eco-Marathon vehicle, that aims to see who can go furthest on just one meagre litre of fuel.

For the record, it's currently held by the team from Polytech Nantes in France, which squeezed an extraordinary 4,896km from one litre in its fuel cell-powered car, Polyjoule at last year's Shell Eco-Marathon in Europe. As Shell proudly points out, that's the equivalent of driving head to toe in Europe, from the North Cape in Norway to the bottom of the Italian peninsular.

There are a series of conferences and seminars during the two days of Challenge Bibendum and with thunderstorms predicted over Berlin this afternoon, it should make for some interesting driving conditions too. Michelin is also heavily involved in the Challenge, having reputedly brought hundreds of people from around the globe to participate. Should be informative.

Addendum. I transited yesterday through Amsterdam on the way here to Berlin and the aircraft parked on a remote stand surrounded by dozens of other KLM machines - where a lot of refueling takes place.

As we made our way down the aircraft steps and milled about on the tarmac by the transfer bus, a passenger decided to light a cigarette. A fellow traveller and I looked at him in utter disbelief before an airport official rushed over to tell him to put it out. That's a first for me.


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