Chrysler Group is working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to adapt a hydraulic hybrid system that may be used in an upcoming version of its popular minivan.
This was announced during a joint appearance by Chrysler Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. The project coincides with efforts to meet strict new fuel economy standards that are expected to take effect after 2016.
Notably, Chrysler is the only major automaker in the U.S. market without a hybrid offering. The EPA has worked with supplier Eaton Corp. to create a hydraulic hybrid system in order to improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions.
This system is currently being tested in heavy work trucks. Conventional hybrids such as the Prius from Toyota Motor Corp. use batteries to store power and lessen the work that’s required of the combustion engine.
In many ways, a hydraulic hybrid vehicle functions in a very different manner compared to a hybrid-electric vehicle (HEV). For one, a hydraulic hybrid vehicle has no expensive batteries and no costly electric motors.
Instead, a hydraulic hybrid vehicle features a 117cc pump and 45cc drive electric motor – activated by a combustion engine – to compress fluid in a 14.4-gallon high-pressure tank up to 5,000psi. The test minivan will feature Chrysler's 2.4-liter 4-cylinder world engine. During acceleration, high-pressure fluid is directed through the drive axles to spin the wheels.
The fluid is then collected in a low-pressure accumulator tank. The engine will remain deactivated until the pressure on the high-pressure tank reaches below a certain threshold. Likewise, the momentum of the vehicle could also charge the high-pressure tank – as the motor on the drive axles acts like a pump to build on the tank while reducing speed.
This system is similar to how a regenerative brake system on an electric vehicle could generate electrical energy from its slowing momentum. With this setup, the conventional vehicle consumes between 30 percent and 35 percent less fuel. Chrysler intends to build a road-going prototype by 2012.