New Car Technology: PSA and Bosch unveil hybrid that uses compressed air; GM likely to use it

Auto Club USA

VELIZY, France — PSA/Peugeot-Citroen plans to launch hybrid cars partially powered by compressed air by 2016. General Motors will likely use the technology as part of its alliance agreement with PSA, a spokesman said.

The French carmaker says the so-called “Hybrid Air” system developed with supplier Robert Bosch will be lighter than a hybrid running on gasoline and battery power.

A PSA spokesman told Automotive News Europe that the auomaker plans production models with the hybrid hydraulic engine in its minicar and subcompacts. Both Peugeot and Citroen will introduce the engine in their cars simultaneously, he said.

The technology will reduce the cost of cutting emissions compared with current hybrids. “The cost per gram of CO2 reduction is going to be very competitive,” Bosch automotive chief Bernd Bohr told reporters here on Tuesday.

The technology uses a compressed air component to draw energy from the combustion engine and from the car’s brakes.

The hydraulic system, which comprises two hydraulic units and their pressure accumulators, allows the vehicle to be driven in three ways: the conventional mechanical way, hydraulically, or by a combination of the two.

In city driving conditions, the vehicles can travel on emission-free, compressed air power as much as 80 percent of the time with the three-cylinder gasoline engine cut, PSA said.

Bosch said the technology can be combined with any conventional engine and is suitable for all passenger-car segments and light delivery trucks in urban traffic. “This hydraulic-mechanical powertrain system results in a hybrid powertrain that is more cost-effective, robust, and service-friendly. In addition, it does not require any special infrastructure, and can be deployed anywhere in the world,” the supplier said.

PSA said a prototype Hybrid Air subcompact emitted 72 grams of CO2 per km, compared with 104 grams for a Peugeot 208 model with the same combustion engine.

The automaker aims to price subcompact vehicles with the new technology below 20,000 euros ($26,700), development chief Guillaume Faury said. The similarly sized Toyota Yaris gasoline hybrid has a starting price of around 18,500 euros in France, excluding any environment-related discounts.

Faury declined to give detailed cost estimates but said the new drivetrain would cut the cost per gram of CO2 saved by half when compared with equivalent gasoline-electric hybrids.

PSA’s Air Hybrid drivetrain uses a hydraulic propulsion system for emission-free driving.

He said the new power unit weighed 100 kg, about half that of other typical hybrids.

Unspecified technical challenges have yet to be overcome before a commercial launch, Bosch’s Bohr said. “Some more work will have to be done before these cars find the mass market,” he said.

European hybrid sales rose about 50 percent last year, according to PSA data, even as the region’s overall auto market shrank to a 17-year low. PSA’s diesel-electric hybrids claimed a 16 percent share of that market, with leader Toyota claiming 70 percent.

Reuters contributed to this report

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