The EPA announced this week that they’ll be lending their new hydraulic hybrid technology to Chrysler to make a 35% more efficient hybrid minivan. The partnership was announced by EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson and Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne in Ann Arbor, Michigan and is aimed at bringing the hydraulic hybrid technology to the auto market. The new technology teams a regular combustion engine with a set of high pressure hydraulic fluid vessels to power the vehicle’s wheels.
Hydraulic hybrid technology uses hydraulic pressure instead of a battery to store energy and power the wheels of the vehicle. Most hybrid vehicles on the market currently use a large battery to store extra energy, these batteries are costly and drive up the price of the vehicle. Exploring other hybrid technologies — meaning coupling combustion motors with other energy storing devices — could help bring down the cost of hybrid vehicles therefore making fuel efficiency more affordable for a larger population of customers.
Hydraulic hybrid vehicles (HHVs) come in two forms: parallel and series. In a parallel HHV both the combustion engine and the hydraulic motor — which is powered by the dueling high pressure hydraulic fluid vessels — are connected to the wheels. In a series HHV only the hydraulic motor is connected to the wheels and the combustion engine provides the hydraulic motor with extra energy. In both versions while the car is moving kinetic energy is used to store pressurized fluid in the high pressure hydraulic fluid vessels. When the driver wants to accelerate the vehicle, this pressurized fluid is released, which engages the wheels and pushes the car forward.
“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,” Jackson said. “The EPA and Chrysler are working together to explore the possibilities for making this technology affordable and accessible to drivers everywhere.”
Lead image of a 2006 Chrysler Town & Country