A car that runs on air? Peugeot is working on it. The French automaker revealed its Hybrid Air technology last year and will showcase the 208 Hybrid 2L Demonstrator car at the Paris Motor Show next month. The latest iteration of the Hybrid Air design complements the gasoline-air powertrain with weight- and drag-cutting measures to offer fuel economy in the range of 117 mpg (2 L/100km), which is well above the 81 mpg (2.9 L/100km) it was quoting last year.
Beginning with the 82-hp (61 kW) 1.2-liter PureTech 208 five-seater, Peugeot's engineers reached into their materials catalog, swapping in carbon composite body panels and coil springs. They also reworked the thickness of the stainless steel on the exhaust system to provide a 20 percent weight saving, helping slice 220 lb (100 kg) compared to the production 208, down to 1,896 lb (860 kg).
While exotic materials are sometimes dropped when a car moves from prototype to production, Peugeot says that its team looked specifically for "materials compatible with existing production facilities and a high manufacturing output," suggesting a production version could feature the same construction.
The Hybrid Air powertrain combines the 1.2-liter gasoline engine with a compressed-air drive. Unlike last year's Hybrid Air concept, which used a longitudinally mounted air tank running down the center of the car, the 208 Hybrid 2L carries its compressed air tank below the trunk, with a low-pressure expansion tank mounted near the rear axle. The compressed air works in conjunction with a front-mounted hydraulic motor/pump system to power the car and refill in about 10 seconds during deceleration or by way of compressed air developed by the three-cylinder engine.
A bespoke epicyclic transmission balances output from the two power sources. The car has a zero emissions Air mode for lower-speed urban driving, Petrol mode for steady highway driving, and Combined mode for "transition phases in urban environments, such as standing starts and acceleration." As the demonstrator model name indicates, this balance results in efficiency levels as high as 2L/100 km (117 mpg), an improvement from last year's 2.9L/100km (81 mpg) figure.
Gizmag will be attending the Paris Motor Show, and we'll look to get more information about this promising hybrid technology, including whether it is still on pace to launch within the next two years.