Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Green: EPA's Hydraulic Hybrid System To Power Chrysler Cars Without Using Batteries

Hybrid cars without the expensive battery inside and still manage to get mileage than regular combustion-engine vehicles?  Maybe this might be just the answer to getting cheaper and more efficient cars on the road.

Chrysler and the Environmental Protection Agency are working to integrate the EPA's hydraulic hybrid system into a few of their heavier vehicles to increase the mileage which should result in less carbon emission.

We can see up to a 30% increase in fuel efficiency from this process – 60% for city dwellers.  The way it works is that during breaking, heat lost would instead be stored tank containing hydraulic fluid with a nitrogen bladder.  It would be pushed back during stops at which time the engine in these cars should be shut off.  It would power the car without using gas.  The engine turns back on when needed.

And more than that, because it does use batteries like other hybrids (Volt, Prius, Insight), such a hydraulic hybrid system makes the world less reliant on rare earth metals, which China is attempting to ration and likely use it as a political and economic bargaining chip.

Though the EPA is working with Chrysler on this, I don't see why other car makers can't explore this as well.  Honestly, Chrysler cars and designs just don't do it for me.  It's more something of the baby boomers might drive.

Here are a couple of examples of HHS working (2006):

  • UPS has 88K trucks and costs $1.4B in fuel.  However, while hybrid vehicles with battery can take about a decade to recoup the cost, the EPA estimate that the UPS can recoup that back in 2.5 years.  
  • Ford is working on an Expedition (13 mpg) with a HHS system that can provide 32 mpg in the city or 22 mpg on the highway.  That's nearly 150% and 70% increase in fuel efficiency respectively.

More at CNN, How Stuff Works, Automedia, EPA (PDF)

Note:  According to the Wiki page, such a system has the advantage over more expensive battery solutions  However, packing and noise serves as technical barriers.  But it appears Chrysler have found a way to overcome that.

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