In the future, some hybrids won’t use batteries and won’t look like almonds.
Several companies are developing hydraulic hybrid drivetrains that bring the benefits of hybrids to heavy-duty vehicles like buses. The technology, which uses pressurized fluid instead of electricity to turn the wheels, promises significant fuel savings at lower cost than traditional hybrids.
Altair Product Design recently unveiled what it says is the world’s first series hydraulic hybrid transit bus and says it delivers twice the fuel economy of a conventional diesel bus. UPS has experimented with hydraulic hybrid delivery trucks, and even Chrysler is getting in on the act with a hydraulic hybrid minivan that could deliver a 60 percent increase in fuel economy during city driving.
The Environmental Protection Agency has joined several firms, including Chrysler, in a push to test the tech. The agency says hybrid hydraulic vehicles could cut fuel consumption by one third, which is significant when you consider a diesel bus gets around 3 mpg.
Given the technology’s promise, it may be time for batteries to stand guard. There’s a new hybrid in town.