Peugeot Investigating Innovative Range Extender Engine


The world of electric cars is split into two groups — those who favor all electric cars with batteries and those who prefer electric cars with range extender engines. Think of it as Nissan LEAF versus Chevy Volt. From a purely philosophical point of view, a battery electric car is the preferred way to go. After all, why have electric cars at all if you are going to still use fossil fuels to help them get from Point A to Point B?

Aquarius range extender engines

That’s an excellent question. But as it often the case, there is big difference between the ideal and the practical. Electric cars today require large, heavy, and expensive batteries if they are to have more than a modest amount of range. It’s one thing to prefer battery operated cars; it’s another to be able to sell them at prices that will attract mainstream buyers. Throw in a confusing hodgepodge of battery chargers and a lack of charging station infrastructure and you have a situation in which many car buyers prefer to just stick with their tried and true conventional cars, at least for now.

Purists hate the idea of range extender engines but they make remarkably good sense for today. They are cheaper and lighter than batteries and they eliminate any range anxiety concerns for drivers. Just drive on battery power as far as it takes you, then let the gasoline engine take over. That’s what the Chevy Volt does and it works brilliantly.

Peugeot is considering a new range extender engine design from Israeli start-up company Aquarius Engines for its plug-in hybrid cars. “We are evaluating the technology,” said PSA Research and Development Director Gilles Le Borgne. “Nothing has been decided yet.”

The Aquarius engine is a single cylinder design with no valves. The piston shuttles back and forth inside the cylinder, generating power from electromagnetic coils with each stroke. The company says its engine is more than twice as efficient as a typical internal combustion engine. That claim is accurate, according to simulations by German engineering firm FEV.

The Aquarius design is an engine and generator in one, rather than a gas engine driving a separate generator. Its primary advantage is low cost. Peugeot is seeking ways to build affordable electric cars for the masses in developing markets. Will the idea ever catch on in America? Certainly not because of anything Peugeot does. It has no presence in the American automotive market.

Another French company, Renault, has looked into the range extender idea and decided to pass. It developed its own two stroke range extender engine but won’t be using it in its cars. Senior Vice President Arnaud Deboeuf said recently his company will rely instead on future improvements in battery performance and cost. “We’re going to extend their range,” Deboeuf said. “But we’ll do it without range extenders.”

But others might be interested in a range extender engine that is smaller, lighter, and cheaper than a traditional gasoline engine. Until battery technology and charging infrastructure catch up, cars that are partially electric with range extender engines will be an important part of the automotive market worldwide.

Source: Reuters





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I have been a car nut since the days when Rob Walker and Henry N. Manney, III graced the pages of Road & Track. Today, I use my trusty Miata for TSD rallies and occasional track days at Lime Rock and Watkins Glen. If it moves on wheels, I'm interested in it. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.
  • This is good news – I hope they continue to make progress. It will be interesting to see the working design.

  • Marc P

    Interesting… as long as it can be reliable over time.
    With or without this technology, PHEV is the future… for now.

    • Steve Hanley

      I agree. I drove the Chevy Volt for a week earlier this year and it is a fine car. Perfectly suited to my everyday driving needs. Will it be the answer in 2030? Probably not. But for now, it looks, feels, and drives like a regular car. Exactly what Mr and Mrs Mainstream America are looking for.

      A little pricey, perhaps, but that is the only negative in the package in my experience.

      • Marc P

        A slew of new PHEV SUV’s are coming, the Mitsu Outlander (2017) and the Honda CRV (2018) to name but those two. When this happens in N.A., I think we’ll see this market grow considerably.

      • trackdaze

        Only 2000 sold per month of the volts. Surely gm aren’t on the production rev limit?

  • Rick

    I think we can all agree that ,ideally, pure Evs, charged with sun rays from our roofs, should already dominate our roads. Mind you, I do mean from our roofs, not- yeah, I charge whenever I like and I send them (the utility) the sunshine whenever it is out there.- Funny thing. Apparently, most guys who brag about this also publicly declare their hatred of utilities, that they should die a slow death, the spiral and so on. -Oh, and in the meanwhile we get to trash those big bad nasty companies like Nissan. -And this, I believe, is the biggest difference between us (Rex, E-rev, Hybrid fans) and the purists. I don’t know, I think we are that much more realistic, wise, tolerant, pretty, open minded, funny and sexy.

  • evfan

    This is a wonderful concept. I hope the engine is quieter than the i3 Rex.

    • trackdaze

      That’s a motorbike twin.

      The triple in the i8 is sounds exotic, ford do a good 1.0 triple.

      The crankless/electro gen concept has been around for a bit. Toyota showcased one a whilst back.

      • evfan

        Yes, I read about the Toyota generator, extremely efficient.

        Regarding the sound … on piston engines, multiple cylinders in parallel make for quieter engines.

        I wonder if the same effect works on free piston generators, or whether you need a crankshaft for that.

        • trackdaze

          More about balance a inline 3or 6 has good inherent balance whilst a 2 or 4 cylinder does not.

    • Steve Hanley

      The engine in the Volt is so quiet, I didn’t even know it came on the first day I drove the car. Later I learned to recognize its sound, but it seems to be coming from the next county.

  • trackdaze

    Its good they are now looking at decontentng traditional drivelines in phevs.

    Phevs only need this and an incremental increase in batteries cost,weight and density to solve the range issue, drive like a bev with only minimal and only occassional use of the dino juice. Either for max power or long drives.

    The current raft of 20mile phevs ( <10kwhr batteries) are a generation short.

  • kevin mccune

    Mixed feelings on this but it does make a lot of sense ,for short trips you wont need the gen ,plus you have the advantages of electric drive ,you will always have some jerk exceeding the parameters of performance and bitchin’ about it.EZ GO already makes an electric golf cart with a range extender that gives it a 160+ mile range.And this really makes sense in the winter.

  • Eric Lukac-Kuruc

    Such approach would certainly make sense for trucks . Compared to pure EV, this generator, combined with moderate size batteries, offering regenerative braking, would improve the mpg without the penalty of weight.
    Otherwise, trucks require huge and costly battery packs.

    • kevin mccune

      This very true some trucks already carry 4 pretty darn heavy lead acid accumulators ,this leads to the possibility of having the same torque as the bigger engines without the necessity of the huge diesels in some parts of the country(GPS can warn you to stay out of areas were your performance is diminshed)I can foresee a huge fuel saving potential there.Not to mention the removal of the requirement to have an idle free comfort system,the potential is exciting,the next thing I would like to see is the decreasing of the tare weight by at least a metric ton on the class eight rigs,be expensive ,but you dont get paid for hauling deadweight .