VIENNA – Yo-Avto, the Russian auto maker that plans to produce hybrid-electric cars, will use Fiat engines to power its debut model, a cross/utility vehicle called the Yo-Crossover.

Yo-Avto is using the Fiat FIRE 1.4L bi-fuel engine, which can run on either gasoline or compressed natural gas.

The Russian joint venture, owned 85% by billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov’s Onexim Group, originally wanted to launch volume output of its first car in spring 2013. However, as WardsAuto reported last September, the project is delayed. Production is expected to start in spring 2015.

Yo, written as ëor Ё in Russian, is the seventh letter of the Russian alphabet. By opting for that brand name, the auto maker is underscoring the local origin of its cars.

Yo-Avto earlier conducted massive public-relations activities: It made significant use of the Internet, exhibited its concept cars at the Frankfurt auto show in 2011 and organized a road show in different Russian cities.

The auto maker is trying again to build PR momentum. Prokhorov, who also is active in Russian politics, and one of his top managers were driven in two Yo-Crossover prototypes during last month’s St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

About 200 journalists attended a recent Yo-Avto media event at a test track near Moscow.

Media representatives were shown five Yo-Crossover prototypes painted in different colors and took them for short drives.

The design of the car is different from those of the concept vehicles presented earlier.

As the vehicles provided by Yo-Avto were prototypes, there still are many parts and technical solutions to be significantly improved.

While Yo-Avto intended to underline the seriousness of its plans with the media event, the prototypes’ technical problems add to the doubts of critics who see the company merely as a project to support Prokhorov’s political ambitions.

The Yo-Crossover has a steel frame and plastic body panels and body elements. It has all-wheel drive in standard configuration. Its drive system is a series hybrid. Supercapacitors are used for energy storage.

The powertrain’s peak power in acceleration mode is 100 kW (134 hp), with 50% provided by the generator and 50% by the supercapacitors. System operating voltage is 420 volts.

The bi-fuel engine and generator combine to power the electric motors. The engine has no mechanical connection to wheels and instead is managed by an electronic control unit as a slave unit.

The Yo-Crossover is 168 ins. (428 cm) long, 70 ins. (178.3 cm) wide and 65.5 ins. (166 cm) high. The vehicle’s wheelbase is 100 ins. (255 cm).

Yo-Avto plans to offer potential customers test-drive opportunities in the second half of 2014 and to launch volume production at its plant in Maryino near St. Petersburg in March 2015.

Plans call for the initial assembly of up to 10,000 cars a year in the first phase, 20,000 in the second and 40,000 in the third.

In 2011, Yo-Avto said pricing of a base 2-wheel-drive vehicle would start at about RR360,000 ($11,000). The auto maker now declines to reveal the price, but it is expected to be significantly higher.