NOVO-OGARYOVO, Russia Avid car lover and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin drove Russia's first gasoline-electric hybrid car on Friday to visit political partner President Dmitry Medvedev.
Called Yo-mobile, the car is a personal project of billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, who has said it could bring Russia a competitive edge in the global automotive industry, where the country is better known for its boxy Lada cars.
"I would like to drive your Yo-mobile to Dmitry Anatolievich (Medvedev), and show it to him ... I hope your Yo-mobile will not fall apart on the way," Putin told Prokhorov at a meeting just outside of Moscow.
About 5 kilometers (3 miles) separate Putin's Novo-Ogaryovo country residence, nestled in a pine forest outside Moscow, from Medvedev's home in Gorki.
The car, whose name is a play on a Russian swear word, drives both on petrol and natural gas.
It has a rotary engine and uses ultra capacitators, an energy-storing device seen as an alternative to lithium-ion batteries, which are installed on all other hybrid cars currently in production.
The capacitators store energy they receive directly from the engine and do not require re-charging from a power network. "Lithium-ion batteries are a mistake, a dead-end," said the car's developer Andrei Biryukov.
Prokhorov said the Yo-mobile is to go into mass production in the second half of 2012, and expects to produce 10,000 cars a year. The car will burn 3.5 liters of fuel per 100 km and will cost about 450,000 rubles ($15,860).
Putin, who as head of government had backed state aid worth billions of dollars to Russia's struggling automotive industry, often appears behind the wheel in public.
Most of the state aid, allocated in 2009, went to the Soviet-era behemoth AvtoVAZ, which produces the Lada.
Last year Putin tried to drum up support for Ladas by driving a bright yellow Lada Kalina some 2,000 km in Russia's Siberia and Far East. He also raced in a Formula One car made by Renault, a shareholder in AvtoVAZ.
(Writing by Gleb Bryanski; Editing by Will Waterman)