Compressed air energy storage – for cars

We’ve all heard of CAES (compressed air energy storage). Normally, the expression brings grid-scale operations involving vast underground caverns to mind or, at the very least, a substantial plant such as LightSail’s headline-making design. But French automaker PSA, owner of both Peugeot and Citroen, thinks CAES can be used as a replacement for battery power in hybrid vehicles.

The proposed vehicle would have a conventional petrol engine, paired with a hydraulic motor, driven by air from a high-pressure tank and which would come into play during low speed urban driving. The first prototype is slated for 2016, with a combined economy of 117 mpg.

But this is not the first time that compressed air has been suggested for running vehicles. As an example, Tata’s MiniCAT (Compressed Air Technology) is a very lightweight car that was scheduled to flood the streets of India in the summer of 2011, then at the end of last year – and now this. It remains to be seen if France’s air-powered car will share the same fate.