Green power may help Trabant trundle back to life

Mon Aug 17, 2009 3:24pm EDT
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By Caroline Copley

BERLIN (Reuters Life!) - One of the most endearing symbols of communist East Germany, the stinky two-cylinder "Trabant" will roar back to life at the International Motor Show in Frankfurt in September -- as an electric concept car.

Designers behind the modernized prototype, "Trabant nT" hope to transform the former smoke-belching clunker into an energy efficient vehicle for the modern city-dweller, equipped with electric fuel cells and a solar-panel roof.

"We think it will appeal to drivers who want something sustainable and stylish," said Daniel Stiegler, a spokesman for Herpa Miniaturemodelle.

The Trabant, known affectionately as the "Trabi," was designed as the communist answer to the Volkswagen Beetle and clattered down East German streets at a top speed of 100 kph (62 mph), trailing a distinctive odor of oil and mixed petrol.

Known in the West as a spark plug with a roof, because of its small size, East Germans queued for years to buy one.

Herpa, a Bavarian manufacturer of miniature vehicles bought the rights to the name two years ago with a view to creating, with a partner, a full-size revamped version of the cult car.

The firm said it received an overwhelmingly positive response in 2007 to a 1:10 scale model of its two-door, four seater concept.

"We had a folder at the fair asking visitors if they were in favor of the model as a real car," Stiegler said. "We had about 14,000 reactions and about 90 percent were in favor of bringing it back."   Continued...

<p>A Trabant car from the National People's Army (NVA) of the former GDR drives during a fan meeting at the 50th anniversary of the Trabant car in Zwickau November 10, 2007. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke</p>