When I say hybrid, you think electric, right? Well there are other kinds of hybrids too, and apparently Chrysler is joining with the EPA to produce a hydraulic hybrid minivan. Good to be different, or fool’s errand?
Hydraulic hybrids use the power of compressed fluid to drive a vehicle. Usually reserved for high-torque industrial applications, Chrysler and the EPA apparently think it can be applied to passenger cars too. And why not? The basic premise is simple, and will be first applied to the popular Chrysler Town & Country minivan. A 2.4 liter four-cylinder engine will compress hydraulic fluid to up to 5,000 psi. The stored kinetic energy can then be sent to the wheels via a two-speed transmission, and so long as there is pressure in the tanks, the gas engine can stay off.
This can improve highway fuel economy by 30%, and city driving by as much as 60%. The 2011 Town & Country has a 17/25 mpg rating currently, and going on those numbers, a hydraulic hybrid version could get 27 city/32. For a car, that’s not so great, but for a big minivan, that’s pretty impressive, and hydraulic hybrids are as quiet as electric cars, but without the heavy batteries (though I wonder how much weight a hydraulic system adds). Chrysler won’t be going it alone, as both Fiat and the EPA will be right there alongside them. It also makes me wonder if the Chrysler 300 hybrid mentioned earlier might also be in line for this hydraulic hybrid system.
I applaud Chrysler for not aimlessly following the herd, but there is something to be said for safety in numbers. Would you ever consider buying a hydraulic hybrid?
Chris DeMorro is a writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to Hemis. You can follow his slow descent into madness at Sublime Burnout.