Team designs new air hybrid engine

Normal petrol engines can be turned into ecologically friendly and cost-effective hybrids without the need for radical redesigns, a university team has found.

Simulations by the Institute of Engineering and Design at Brunel University, in west London, show standard combustion engines might be able to be adapted into a new air hybrid engine at very low costs, and would run considerably cheaper while producing far less carbon emissions.

The engineers are working on the idea that when a car uses its engine's natural compression cycle to brake, the piston could also compress air and drive it into a compressed air tank. This could be later used to power the piston and to provide compressed air for turbo charging during a period of turbo lag (normally at low revolutions).

Professor Hua Zhao, director for advanced powertrain and fuels research at the institute, said: "Significantly reducing the cost of driving through reducing fuel consumption and lowering carbon emissions for commercial vehicles is an ongoing battle.

"Our simulations prove that we have achieved a major breakthrough. Now, we need to test it with vehicle manufacturers."

The team says it would only require small alterations to adapt a normal combustion engine into an air hybrid using production technologies, with no need to alter the transmission or redesign the engine.

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