Continuing its push to increase fuel efficiency by using the latest powertrain technologies, the Chrysler Group recently announced it would team up with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to investigate the application of hydraulic hybrid systems to the retail auto industry. This technology already is a proven success when incorporated into industrial vehicles like large garbage trucks and delivery vehicles, where it delivers substantial improvements in fuel efficiency.
“Hydraulic hybrid vehicles represent the cutting edge of fuel-efficiency technology and are one of many approaches we’re taking to save money for drivers, clean up the air we breathe and cut the greenhouse gases that jeopardize our health and prosperity,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “The EPA and Chrysler are working together to explore the possibilities for making this technology affordable and accessible to drivers everywhere. This partnership is further proof that we can preserve our climate, protect our health and strengthen our economy all at the same time.”
These systems use a gasoline engine to drive a pump that can pressurize hydraulic fluids to up to 5,000 psi, and that pressure energy is then delivered to a special axle motor, which, in turn, provides power to the vehicle’s wheels. As long as sufficient pressure remains in the system, the gas engine remains off to save fuel; if pressure gets too low, the gas engine restarts again to repressurize the system.
The Chrysler/EPA project first will involve engineering a similar hydraulic hybrid setup for a Chrysler Town & Country outfitted with an I4 engine. The plan is to have the vehicle on the road sometime in 2012.
“In this hydraulic hybrid project, the Chrysler Group and EPA will evaluate and, hopefully, validate fuel-efficiency gains and greenhouse gas reductions,” said Sergio Marchionne, CEO of the Chrysler Group. “One of the aims of Chrysler Group’s integration efforts will be to meet driver expectations for smooth and quiet operation, so that Americans will want to buy and will enjoy driving vehicles with this technology.”