PSA's innovative and fuel-saving Hybrid Air technology is being scaled down because of rising development costs
22 January 2015

PSA Peugeot Citroën is scaling down its once-promising Hybrid Air project because it has been unable so far to attract a major manufacturer to share the high development costs.

Development will continue, PSA insists, while admitting that its 180-strong development team has been slimmed down.Reports in the French press say the process, once tipped to cut a car’s city fuel consumption by more than 40 per cent by compressing air in the coasting and braking phases and using it for acceleration, is unlikely to see commercialisation.

Project leader Karim Mokaddem left the company “quietly” more than three months ago, according to French newspapers.

Questioned by Automotive News, PSA sources countered that Mokaddem’s departure was always planned after the first development phase had been completed. They insisted that there were no plans to cancel the project. But they failed to repeat claims that the process, developed with help from component supplier Bosch, would produce cars partially propelled by compressed air in 2016.

In October last year, PSA admitted that it was seeking partners to share the research and development cost of the Hybrid Air system, because the technology was proving expensive to bring to market.

Autocar has already driven a prototype Peugeot 2008 fitted with the system, while Peugeot showed a 208 fitted with the technology at the Paris motor show last year.

Citroën has also fitted a Hybrid Air-based powertrain to its C4 Cactus, creating the C4 Cactus Airflow 2L concept.

PSA research and development boss Gilles Le Borgne has previously said the technology requires a production run of about 500,000 cars a year to make economic sense, because the system needs numerous components not found in other cars – including hydraulic motors, special gearboxes and 300bar gas tanks.

“Car companies are like big ships,” he said. “It takes time for them to change course as much as they could have to.

“Hybrid Air is ready for development, but it needs a big investment and we are not ready to make it on our own."

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Comments
9

24 October 2014
If the development costs are so high, then a hybrid air car is going to have to be expensive to buy for the manufacturer(s) to recover costs. So as a consumer, I'd rather opt for the proven Honda / Toyota hybrids, which are well proven and reliable. Also, I'd suggest that while possibly heavier, an electric hybrid is likely to be more efficient than one which relies on the lossy process of compressing and expanding air - and let's not forget that much of the Toyota's fuel efficiency comes from its Atkinson cycle engine, not just energy recovery. I'm sure the rest of the industry will have looked closely at the Citroen concept and come to a similar conclusion. It's a pity because hybrid air would have given Citroen a USP on a similar scale to its hydropneumatic suspension of old, but it seems we didn't want that either.

24 October 2014
Now wait a minute. I had thought that the whole point of the PSA's air-hybrid technology was to drive the cost of building and owning hybrid cars. If it is proving so dear to build that the PSA is seeking cost partners then what's the chance of it's being cheap to buy?

24 October 2014
...persevere with this technology. If they were VAG with deep pockets it would have been in the marketplace already, because PSA aren't as flush doesn't mean it's still not the right thing to do. The current crop of hybrids all do their thing very well but their reliance on rare earth metals undermines their environmental message.

When I read this I get reminded of when FIAT couldn't afford to go it alone with diesel common-rail injection and sold out to Bosch, a decision they greatly regretted. I think PSA will be making the same mistake if they relinquish too much control at this stage. They should make some hard choices and find the money, it will pay off in the long term.


22 January 2015
bomb wrote:
The current crop of hybrids all do their thing very well but their reliance on rare earth metals undermines their environmental message.

This is what I was thinking as well. Hybrids have their place, as do EV's, but they aren't as environmentally sound as they are made out to be. Hopefully PSA continue with this and make a decent alternative to hybrid tech.

24 October 2014
When a car company goes public with these pleas are they expecting a different response from when they approach the 'big boys' behind doors. Maybe they think they've missed out on asking a big player because they've over forgotten a name. It looks like they're looking for a get out clause for not putting it into production themselves

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

24 October 2014
I'm surprised that Fiat or GM has not taken the jump into this with PSA. Fiat especially as they are needing partners to develop new engines, tec and chassis.

Optima2

24 October 2014
Rather have a compressed air hybrid than a potentially lethal high DC voltage one that could also be inflammable. Sounds like one for the EU to chip in with, or even the Chinese government to strengthen its green image and kickstart a technology in a high volume market.

22 January 2015
When above all the market just wants cheap stylish cars and isn't over concerned with the stuff that really matters like efficiency, weight, running costs, reliability and durability. The failure of PSA to develop this puts the petrol electric hybrid (and latterly fuel cell) achievements of Toyota and Honda into perspective.

23 January 2015
Keep up Autocar, this was reported ages ago.

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