Mention “hybrid vehicle,” and most people probably assume you mean hybrid “electric” vehicle, but in the case of the upcoming Peugeot 208 Air-Hybrid, you would be way off. After all, it does say “air.”
Since the OPEC Oil Embargo, and more recent emissions regulations, automakers have been on a constant hunt for better fuel economy while maintaining performance. When it comes to hybrid vehicles, automakers have been focusing on ways to recover lost energy and reduce waste. In the case of hybrid electric vehicles, regenerative braking stores lost kinetic energy in battery packs, which can then be used to accelerate the vehicle. Also, the internal combustion engine [ICE] doesn’t have to run all the time, since it isn’t needed when the vehicle is sitting still or decelerating.
In a hybrid electric vehicle, both of these tactics reduce fuel consumption and emissions, but they also add weight to the vehicle, in the form of heavy lithium-ion [Li-ion] or nickel-metal hydride [NiMH] battery packs and electric motors. What if a hybrid vehicle could recover energy for reuse, but without the weight? That’s exactly what Peugeot engineers asked themselves when they were considering a new hybrid vehicle, an air-hybrid.
If you think about it, an ICE is essentially an air pump in reverse, so the mechanics are already there for most of the air-hybrid system. I’m not sure exactly how the system works, going to look that up, but it seems to me that, on deceleration, air is stored in pressurized tanks onboard, allowing the ICE to stop running, saving fuel. On acceleration, air from the tanks is pumped into the ICE, turning it and, in turn, the transmission, which moves the car forward. The beauty of this system is that it doesn’t require heavy Li-ion battery packs or electric motors. The air storage system is much lighter, and cheaper!
In testing, the Peugeot 208 Air–Hybrid vehicle rated nearly 100mpg, still capable of a 0-60mph sprint of 8 seconds. Production is expected by 2015.
Image © Puegeot Navarra Automóviles