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'Air' to the hybrid throne?

2013-01-29 09:29

UNDER PRESSURE TO SUCCEED: The ‘Hybrid Air’ engine system could be a threat to other hybrid as well as electric cars with expensive battery systems.

PARIS, France - If paying your petrol bill is like pulling teeth than check out this concept car - though it's something South Africa thought of years ago.

As far back as 1999, various companies tinkered with the concept of an air-powered car. Motor Development International even went so far as to publicly launch the Air Car in South Africa in 2002 and predicted it would go into production "within six months" in January 2004. It never did.

Just like the very expensive Joule battery car that swallowed millions of taxpayers' money in SA.


Now French car giant PSA Peugeot Citroen believes it can put an compressed-air powered hybrid vehicle on the road by 2016 for more than R14 000 less than current hybrid models.

The "revolutionary" Hybrid Air engine – the first to combine petrol with compressed air – is a breakthrough for hybrid cars because expensive batteries will no longer be needed. It works by using a normal petrol engine, special hydraulics and an adapted gearbox along with compressed-air cylinders that store and release energy.

The car can run on petrol or air, or a combination of the two.

The air compresses and decompresses of its own accord as the car speeds up and slows down.

Air power would be used solely for city use, automatically activated below 70km/h and available for "60 to 80% of the time in city driving". By 2020, the cars could be achieving an average of 2.4 litres/100km, according to Peugeot.

Its scientists say it will almost halve fuel bills for an average driver. And when driving in towns and cities costs could be slashed by as much as 80% because the car will be running on air for four-fifths of the time. Adn you'll never risk  running out of compressed air late at night on a deserted country road because the car will be fitted with a sophisticated artificial brain that ensures it replenishes itself automatically.

The air-compression system can re-use all the energy normally lost when slowing down and braking. The motor and a pump are in the engine bay, fed by a compressed air tank underneath the car, running parallel to the exhaust.

The revolutionary system will be able to be installed on any normal family car without altering its external shape or size or reducing the boot size, provided the spare wheel is not stored there. From the outside, an air-powered car will look identical to a conventional vehicle.


A Peugeot  spokesman said: "We are not talking about weird and wacky machines. These are going to be in everyday cars."

The innovations are crucial to chairman Philippe Varin’s efforts to revamp the ailing automaker that has suffered badly due to the crisis in southern European markets including Italy, Portugal and Spain that account for a large chunk of its worldwide sales which were down 8.8% to 2.82-million in 2012.

The first cars to feature the ‘Hybrid Air’ engine system  will be the replacement for the Citroen C4 Picasso and the replacement for the 308.


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