Peugeot Citroën this morning unveiled a new hybrid drive system unlike anything we’ve seen outside of a bushy-haired inventor’s shed. It’s a compressed air and gasoline hybrid. Unlike the other hybrid powertrains we’ve seen on the road, this one does not use a battery pack whatsoever.
Peugeot Citroën has posted plenty of pretty pictures and graphics for us but have been somewhat miserly with an English-language detailed system explanation. That said, here’s what we’ve been able to piece together from the broken English PDFs that were sent to us: Up front, under the hood, is a three-cylinder standard gasoline engine. Bolted to that is an automatic transmission. On the other side of the transmission is a hydraulic pump and hydraulic motor. These power systems propel the front wheels of the vehicle either alone or together, depending on the driving scenario.
Above 70 KPH (around 43 MPH) the gasoline engine drives the vehicle by itself, behaving like a standard gasoline-powered car. Should the driver apply the brake, the system will initiate the hydraulic pump, slowing the vehicle, capturing some of the forward energy, and storing it in the form of compressed air. This is commonly referred to as regenerative braking.
Below 70 KPH, however, the air system is engaged and depending on the driving demands will either power the vehicle alone – allowing the gasoline engine to shut off – or power the vehicle in tandem with the gasoline engine. Peugeot Citroën says a hill climb is perfect example of when the two systems would work together.
Our mechanical instinct tells us that simply using a hydraulic pump for regenerative braking alone won’t produce enough energy to propel a car very long. So there must be a way that the gas engine not only powers the car but also the hydraulic pump at the same time, filling the on-board tanks with compressed air. That, unfortunately, was not readily apparent from the Peugeot Citroën press release.
Peugeot Citroën plans to begin selling these new-style hybrids as soon as 2016 and aims to have 21 percent of its entire sales comprised of compressed air hybrids by 2020.
We love this new technology. It’s so simple; we can’t believe someone else hasn’t implemented it before. We’ve always been wary of hybrids that capitalized on precious earth metals for many reasons but at the same time loved the gas savings they presented. Now it appears we can have the best of both worlds.