This Air-Powered Car Gets 81 Miles Per Gallon

Peugeot Citroen’s new C3 VTi 82 will have what they’re calling an air-hybrid system. Will it be the first car to take air power to the mainstream?

If you’re looking for a hybrid with superior mileage per gallon, then compressed air may be your thing. PSA Peugeot Citroen says its new C3 VTi 82 hatchback—which it unveils at a motor show next month—will go 81 miles, in optimum conditions. That’s compared to the Toyota Prius’s roughly 45 mile performance. And there’s no need for expensive, and heavy, lithium batteries. The compressed air system provides power as well as storage: as with other hybrids, it recovers energy from a gasoline engine when you brake or slow down.

From the video, you can see that the Air Hybrid system works in three modes, depending on the neighborhood. Above 43 miles per hour, it uses a conventional engine. Around town, it goes on air alone. And then there’s a combined mode when you need more power at lower speeds. An electronic management unit switches modes automatically.

The idea of powering a car using compressed air isn’t particularly new—several companies have explored the technology. But PSA Peugeot Citroen is the first major one to go big on it, developing a drive-train it hopes to use across several models, including light commercial vans. The company hasn’t released prices yet, saying only that the vehicles will be "competitive both in European and international markets," but that is likely to be a major draw. Lithium batteries remain uncompetitively expensive.

As you might expect, PSA Peugeot Citroen makes a lot of the vehicle’s environmental credentials. It says the C3 VTi 82 will cut fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by 45% in urban conditions, compared to a conventional vehicle with the same-sized engine. And by 2020, it hopes its Air Hybrid range will be getting more than 110 miles per gallon. If so, the French will be delivering more than air. And filling up your car will be a breeze.

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  • Drake Osmun

    Air powered car? Air powered motorcycle? Time for a shopping trip to Europe to bring home a couple of these revolutionary vehicles. Paris, here I come!

  • barkway

    Above 43mph uses gasoline? Where I live in FL, nearly all local roads have a speed limit of 45 so wouldn't get such great fuel economy. Wish they could raise that cutoff to 45 or 50.

  • DavidD

    Just because the speed limit is 45 does not mean that you have to drive 45.  This only indicates the maximum speed limit.  I am sure if you drove at 43 or even 41mph you could still survive and get the fuel economy they are offering.  One of the things we are going to have to change is our need for speed if we are to get the fuel economy that is being offered in most of the new cars.  ould,t it be great if we could just pull up to an air pump to fill up our car if we need a refill away from home and have a small gas or whatever motor for backup.

  • Mrwassman

    Sorry Jeanine wind turbines can only recover ~50% (at best) of the energy going through them and would unfortunately lower your fuel economy. You should totally take a conceptual physic class (no math) and strengthen your knowledge.

  • Jeanine Broderick

    Driving around the USA and noticing all the wind mills I have been wondering when cars with a windmill on top that gathers power as it drives will be invented.  

    I was hoping, when I saw "air powered" that this might be it.  Sounds good anyway.  I like the idea of air power because it would address the open roads.  So far this and other hybreds provide the benefit around town but not on the highway.  

    What if all the long distance trucks were powered by windmills?

    ♡ Jeanine

  • David

    As pointed out, using a windmill (let's call it a wind pump) to generate power to run a compressor won't work in conditions where you are applying power to propel the car.  The net effect would be zero, or less given friction, etc.

    However, if the wind pump was deployed only when braking (letting inertia run the pump) or when going downhill (letting gravity run the pump) then Jibbert's idea would work.  It's called regenerative power production.  

    It's easy to say why something won't work, it's not so easy to pick out useful information from those "unworkable" ideas.

  • owlafaye

    The power the car would use to push that "windmill" through the air is greater than the power it develops Jeanine...basic physics is not your strong suit.  Sit back and LISTEN

  • kittyroara

    I'm pretty sure she meant AS AN ADDITION/ACCESSORY - think outside the box, people! Just like a solar panel, it's an aspect that could reduce emissions by powering things electrically from renewable resources instead of gasoline. It could power a battery (even if a small one) in a hybrid vehicle just like gasoline does in currently available hybrid cars.

  • owlafaye

    I think you folks will find that the Peugeot/Citroen air system is pumped up by the gas engine while the car uses gasoline.  In addition, I am sure the air compressor works while the car is waiting at say, a light, and in all probability it works when braking.

    Air compressors are quite efficient and I am sure these are even longerlasting than the well developed inductrial and commercial air compressor designs.  They have been working on these designs for quite a few years now and this is the first of many to come.

    Kudos to Citroen, a longtime leader in new automotive technology.

  • owlafaye

    Hold it folks....either this is a windmill joke or you are all phenomenally lacking in brains, critcal thinking skills and just plain COMMON SENSE.

  • Andrea

    Really? What you are describing is a perpetual-motion machine. How does the car get the power to get the speed to get power from the windmill in the first place?

  • Jibbert

    Obviously, a huge 3 bladed turbine sticking out of the roof wouldn't work... but what about blades in the front behind the grill that are shielded by louvers that only open under certain conditions?  Or blades elsewhere that deploy only when braking?

    It's easy to say why impractical ideas won't work.  It takes a bit more competence to mine impractical ideas for useful things.

  • Me

    God bless the American education system, apart from the basic laws of physics that have already been pointed out, what do you think the "mill" in "windmill" means?
    All those white spinning things in the field are not milling flour, which is why they are called wind turbines !
    I hope your post was a joke.

  • Dave W

    Nice dream, Jeanine, but most of the energy coming from the windmills would be from the car's motion, so there would be basically no energy gain. Local (ground-based) windmills driving air compressors at air "fuel" stations might be an efficient and elegant solution, though, if these cars live up to their hype. And maybe solar-powered compressors for home use?