Swatch Group’s Hayek Will Develop Eco-Friendly Car Engine

Swatch Group chairman Nicolas Hayek Sr., originator of the Smart car concept, is taking part in a joint venture to develop a fuel-cell-powered engine for cars, a group spokesperson told JCK in August. The project involves the Swatch Group, Hayek Engineering, a Swiss research group called the Paul Scherrer Institute, Swiss energy company Groupe E, an international bank (whose name wasn’t disclosed at press time), the federal polytechnic schools of Lausanne and Zurich, “and other actors,” said an August statement.

The new company is “interested in hydrogen technique and fuel batteries,” said the statement. “The objective [of the new company] is to provide electricity to the population for both mobility and residential needs.”

The partners planned to invest from $17 million to $25 million, confirmed Beatrice Howald, Swatch Group spokesperson. The project’s first results should be ready in 2010, she said.

In the early 1990s, Hayek developed the radical concept of a two-seat minicar for city use. After Volkswagen dropped out, he linked up with German carmaker Mercedes to produce the tiny Swatch (later Smart) car. When changes were made to his original concept, Hayek sold his interest to Mercedes in 1998 and ended involvement, but his interest in eco-friendly cars continued.