Air hybrid vehicles could halve fuel consumption in future

Researchers in Sweden are exploring air hybrid automobiles as possible alternatives to electric hybrid cars, claiming they could halve fuel consumption by using the energy generated from vehicle brakes.

The new system saves the energy in the form of compressed air, which can then provide extra power to the engine when the car is started.

While electric cars and electric hybrid cars already make use of brake energy to power a generator that charges the batteries, Per Tunestal, a Lund University researcher, said that his ‘air hybrids’ would be much cheaper to manufacture.

“The technology is fully realistic. I was recently contacted by a vehicle manufacturer in India which wanted to start making air hybrids,” said Tunestal.

The technology is particularly suitable for jerky and slow driving, such as buses in urban traffic.

Simulations have shown it can cut buses” fuel consumption in urban areas by up to 60 percent.

The researchers also calculated that 48 percent of the brake energy, which is compressed and saved in a small air tank connected to the engine, could be reused later.

They said the engine would take up much less space than an electric hybrid engine, and would work with petrol, natural gas and diesel.

The Lund researchers have worked with the Swedish company Cargine, which supplies valve control systems.

Ford initially hit upon the idea of air hybrids in the 1990s, but the American car company quickly shelved the plans because it lacked the necessary technology to move forward with the project.

“This is the first time anyone has done experiments in an actual engine. The research so far has only been theoretical. In addition, we have used data that means we get credible driving cycle results, for example data from the driving patterns of buses in New York,” said doctoral student Sasa Trajkovic.

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The next step is to progress from a single cylinder to a complete, multi-cylinder engine, moving the design closer to a real vehicle. (ANI)

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