Last year French automaker PSA Peugeot-Citroen launched a whole new take on the hybrid system: Hybrid Air.

While previous air-powered cars have had little more substance than the air that drives them along, the French carmaker's system is set to appear in actual Peugeot production cars over the next few years.

According to Autocar and Auto Expressthe system is likely to make its debut in Peugeot's 2008 subcompact crossover in 2016. From there, it's likely to spread to other small Peugeot and Citroen models.

The system uses compressed air exactly as a regular hybrid would use its battery pack.

Under normal driving, air is compressed into a storage container sitting under the vehicle, just as driving a hybrid vehicle can feed charge into a battery pack.

Accelerate gently at low speeds, and compressed air can drive the car alone for a limited distance--and according to PSA, at speeds of up to 43 mph. Accelerate hard and the air can assist the regular gasoline engine sitting under the hood.

It's likely to be combined with Peugeot's recently-introduced range of three-cylinder gasoline engines, to make the most of the clean, low-emission units.

With the Hybrid Air technology, CO2 emissions could be reduced to 69 grams per kilometer in European fuel economy testing, equivalent to 79 mpg. As ever, we'd note that this figure is higher than we'd expect to see in an equivalent EPA test.

One of Hybrid Air's major benefits is cost: Peugeot says the technology is less expensive than a battery-based hybrid setup.

There are no issues with degradation under certain operating conditions either, and at the end of the vehicle's life, few worries when it comes to recycling the system's components.

Peugeot says the technology will hit production vehicles in the next three years--and if it proves successful in real-world use, we'd not be surprised to see other automakers pursuing a similar setup.


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