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Gasoline air hybrid technology promises 100+ mpg

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A hybrid gasoline, compressed air drivetrain yields over 100 mpg

French automaker Peugeot Citroen is claiming a major breakthrough in fuel efficiency due to a new vehicle design that replaces car battery with compressed air. The air tanks refill automatically and power a special hydraulic motor that, like an electric hybrid, works in unison with a regular internal combustion engine.

Peugeot says that it can achieve a fuel economy of up to 117 mpg using this technology. Car enthusiast Web site Motor Authority notes that the compressed air technology only adds 220 pounds to the weight of a car, which is well below the added heft of an electric hybrid. The maximum city speed is around 45 mph; the gasoline engine will kick in for highway speeds. Compressed air hybrids could hit the road by 2016.

It could conceivably be a road near you - no matter where you live. Peugeot also announced this week a closer alliance with the world's number two automaker, General Motors. The companies are jointly engineering car platforms. While no specific mention of compressed air hybrids were made, it's not outside the realm of possibility for them to collaborate on them. The auto industry is full of hot air.

Engineers at Toyota’s parent company, Toyota Industries Corporation, unveiled that it had assembled a prototype car that’s powered entirely by air in September 2011. In that caes, the air functions like steam in a steam engine - by expanding and driving pistons, which ultimately moves the vehicle. A tank mounted in the back of the car provides its compressed air “fuel,” propelling it to speeds up to 129.2 kilometers per hour.

We'll be seeing more technologies like this thanks to the halo effect that U.S. policies will have on the world market. The Obama administration is expected to implement an aggressive fuel standards policy that would cut in half greenhouse gas emissions from new cars and light trucks by 2025. That takes new technology.

Here's the Peugeot concept car explained:

(image credit: Peugeot)

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— By on January 24, 2013, 11:49 AM PST

David Worthington

Contributing Editor

David Worthington has written for BetaNews, eWeek, PC World, Technologizer and ZDNet. Formerly, he was a senior editor at SD Times. He holds a business degree from Temple University. He is based in New York. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure