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Peugeot To Pluck Recovery Out Of Thin Air?

It is clear that 2012 was a very difficult year for Peugeot Citroen (PSA). Car sales were down by almost 9% on the previous year and this was just the latest in six straight years of drops. Changes in legislation meant the company had to make multi-billion euro write downs which just made an already bad situation worse.

It is clear that 2012 was a very difficult year for Peugeot Citroen (PSA). Car sales were down by almost 9% on the previous year and this was just the latest in six straight years of drops. Changes in legislation meant the company had to make multi-billion euro write downs which just made an already bad situation worse. Then they announced 8,000 redundancies and factory closures which led them to lose a court case with the unions and have to start their redundancy procedures all over again. Key markets across southern Europe were even more depressed than the domestic French market.
 
Against this bleak backdrop, PSA has announced the development of a very special car, one that runs on air. Not just air, of course: it is a hybrid. Dubbed in fact the Hybrid Air, the car should be in production by 2016. The car is an interesting take on the hybrid approach and has some clear advantages over the electric battery – petrol engine hybrids. The thinking behind the new car is pretty similar to that of a standard hybrid. When the car decelerates or brakes, the lost energy is recovered and stored for use when the car accelerates again.
 
What is different is how this is achieved. Instead of converting this energy to electricity and then storing it in a battery, the Hybrid Air uses braking energy to compress gas in a four foot pressurised steel tank. When the energy is needed, it is released by way of a reversible hydraulic pump as the gas is allowed to decompress. The technology is not particularly new but it is simple and cheap. This means that the price tag of the new Hybrid Air could be £5,000 less than a Toyota Prius when the French car is launched in 2016. 
 
The system also means that there is no need for the complex batteries and heavy electric motors that are present in standard hybrid cars. That means that the car is lighter than standard hybrids, which helps achieve its 81mpg fuel consumption figure. Being simpler, cheaper and easier to service could also make the Hybrid Air more attractive than the standard hybrids in the emerging markets of China and India, markets where PSA have so far been unsuccessful. It remains to be seen of course whether PSA can deliver on their promises for the Hybrid Air but if they get it right, having an extremely frugal, cheap and simple little hybrid selling like hot cakes in China could be just what the French manufacturer needs to lift it out of the doldrums.

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