Recent news of a hybrid car that runs on compressed air adds both ingenuity and curiosity to the hybrid landscape. According to Green Car Reports, the prototype “Hybrid Air” utilizes a “compressed air tank mounted in the central transmission tunnel to turn a hyrdaulic motor” rather than rely on power from the electric battery. Taken as face-value, the notion would seem to suggest there’s less strain and overall reliance on the electric battery.
Which brings us to the question of performance: Can a vehicle that churns mostly from compressed air give the driver satisfactory horsepower for the long haul?
And even though the “Hybrid Air” is capable of a higly-efficient 117 MPG, the max speed of the prototype registers at just around 43 miles per hour. Not eye-popping numbers, for sure. And it most assuredly would hinder any driver from really flexing their muscles on the highway or freeway for that matter, because most states have a minimum 4o miles per hour along those stretches. Now, if you were planning on using this type of hybrid solely for downtown and neighborhood drives, then it would be a viable option.
But it’s not like the “Hybrid Air” is set to be released tomorrow. Engineers over at Peugeot Citroen have pegged the prototype to see daylight by 2016. That’s plenty of time for refinements, both in design and performance. Because – and this is certainly an opinion – if the “Hybrid Air” is to truly compete and become a part of the hybrid vehicle fabric, it needs to hit higher max speeds, even if that means slicing into the overall fuel economy. A lesser fuel efficiency shouldn’t detract too much from the car’s carbon footprint because it’s main output would still be coming from compressed air.
In all honesty, I’m excited at the prospect of a car that feeds off compressed air, just as long as it does so efficiently. There’s still much that needs to be addressed, such as the car’s handling, interior and exterior specs, and more insight from other automakers and engineers through test drives and other press. But seeing as how far the hybrid concept has come in the last 20 years, the future’s even brighter towards greater fuel efficiency and more sincere attempts at helping reduce our carbon footprint.