2013 Peugeot RCZ REnlarge Photo
Some of the most exciting hybrid technology isn't coming from Japan or the U.S. these days, but France.
The PSA group, comprising Peugeot and Citroen, has already attracted plenty of attention for its hybrid-air technology. Now, it's looking for ways of improving the batteries in "micro hybrid" stop-start systems.
According to Market Watch, PSA has entered into an innovation contract with PowerGenix, a leading developer of automotive Nickel-Zinc (NiZn) batteries.
These would be used as a replacement for traditional lead-acid batteries in vehicles equipped with gas-saving stop-start technology, now standard across many of the French automakers' vehicles.
Peugeot and Citroen were among the first automakers to adopt the technology, which shuts off the engine when the transmission is put into neutral in a manual vehicle, or when an automatic comes to a halt. The engine then restarts as the driver depresses the clutch or lifts their foot off the brake.
Other automakers have also adopted the technology, and it's expected that as much as 70 percent of the new cars sold by 2017 could use stop-start technology in some shape or form.
Such systems have been slow to filter into the U.S. market, as the EPA's fuel economy testing doesn't fully reflect their benefits--particularly for drivers faced with regular heavy traffic and plenty of time at a standstill.
Current systems are said to benefit economy by 5-8 percent, but future systems could raise that to nearer 12-15 percent--with start-stop at highway speeds and other methods under evaluation.
NiZn batteries are an attractive option for their high energy density and higher charge acceptance than existing lead-acid designs, as well as reducing weight.
PowerGenix and PSA will also investigate in-service life evaluation and safety analysis of the batteries under a variety of conditions, but eventually they could be used across the PSA group. And if those trials prove successful, it may not be so long before several other automakers swap lead-acid for nickel-zinc.