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Saturday, March 02, 2013

Citroen To Offer A Very Different Hybrid - Hybrid Air

In the 1960s - Citroen made the 2CV - "two horses" - because it had a 2 cylinder air-cooled engine.
Citroen also made the "air-ride" D-20. Some say it was the most beautiful and most comfortable car ever. It had air bags on each wheel that moved the car up and down.
Today the Citroen looks like this. It will give a new meaning to "air ride."
The most successful hybrid automobile on sale is the Prius. Toyota has been selling them for 16 years and sales total worldwide has broken the 3,000,000 mark. I have been driving one 3 years. It is very dependable - I have gotten anywhere from 35 to 60 miles per gallon. It is a very quiet - peppy - and smooth. When you pull up to a stoplight the engine turns off saving gasoline.

Most hybrids are like the Prius - namely a small gasoline engine in tandem with a small electric motor. The computer decides which one you use or both at the same time for extra pep.

France's Citroen is banking on a different type of hybrid. It is called the Hybrid Air. It starts out with a basic miserly 3 cylinder engine. The second power source is compressed air. Under the floor - between the passengers - is a 4 foot long air cylinder that is very similar to a welder's tank. When the car is braking - small compressors hooked up to the wheels push air into the tank. That compressed air powers a small turbine that pushes the drive wheels. It is similar to an electric hybrid that uses braking power to charge batteries to be used later. The big difference is that a Prius battery eventually wears out - but the Citroen compressed air tank can function for years. The air in the tank is nitrogen. Although nitrogen sounds dangerous - 80% of the air we breathe is nitrogen. It is harmless - it does not burn - it is inert. 

In tests of the new technology - Citroen has been getting 110 miles per gallon. UPS is experimenting with it in some of it delivery fleet. The technology is perfect for stop and go driving. 

Citroen thinks it can produce this car without having to charge a big premium for the hybrid technology. In Prius hybrids - the big extra cost is for the special battery made of expensive metals. A new Prius can cost $30,000 - but Citroen is aiming for $26,000 for this car.

Citroen is not doing well. They lost 5 billion euros last year on 58 billion euros of sales. General Motors owns 7% of the Citroen company. Since the US government had bought GM stock - officially we own Citroen. 

This new car will arrive in 2015. It sounds like an elegant simple idea. We will see.

This video shows how the new Hybrid Air will work.

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