January 30th, 2013
The world's car manufacturers are working hard to develop engines that aren't reliant on dwindling natural resources to fuel them. So-called hybrid engine cars that combine a conventional petrol or diesel engine with an electric one are available now although the present development of batteries means that the power and range of the electric power units available is limited.
A fuel cell that combines hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity is the hope for the future for many car makers, but the huge PSA Peugeot Citroën group is aiming to go one better with a hybrid car powered by air.
The new system, known as Hybrid Air, will use compressed air to power a hydraulic motor that provides the force needed to operate the transmission and, therefore, the front wheels when the car is in gear. The tank for the compressed air will be located underneath the car and will be fed from air regenerated from the braking system.
Benefits of this system are that the car can run on petrol alone, a mixture of petrol and compressed air, and on air alone. In the latter configuration there will, of course, be zero emissions and no use of scarce oil resources. As well as the obvious advantages for the environment with this new technology, car owners should benefit from low fuel consumption of around 97.4mpg and with CO2 emissions of 69g/km. It is suggested that cars using this process could save motorists around 45 per cent of their present fuel bills as the cars are estimated to be able to run on air for about 80 per cent of an average journey.
Citroën hope to have cars running on the Hybrid Air units by the year 2016, with the current supermini, the C3, likely to be the first air hybrid model on sale. It is also planned to introduce the Hybrid Air System to larger models such as the Citroën C4 as the technology develops and more power is available when running on air.
Developments such as this will be welcomed by anyone who is concerned about the environment. Emissions of greenhouse gases should be reduced and there appear to be substantial savings on the use of petrol. The new Hybrid Air powered vehicles are likely to be around £1000 cheaper at today's prices than the present electric hybrid models, more pleasant music for the ears of motorists struggling to cope with the rising costs of owning a car.