With Washington floating plans to raise federal fuel economy standards to as much as 56.2 mpg, many experts believe that hybrids could become the norm, rather than the exception, in the years ahead. But while today’s gas-electric technology may deliver a significant bump in mileage, it also results in a hefty cost penalty, on some models nudging up to $5,000 over a conventional powertrain.
A small British firm is developing what it claims to be a more cost-effective alternative – a totally mechanical system that eliminates the most costly and troublesome part of today’s hybrids, the battery. Already battle-tested during the grueling Le Mans endurance race, the so-called “flybrid” system could make its first appearance in automotive showrooms before the middle of the decade.
The technology is “smaller, lighter, more powerful and more efficient” than battery-based hybrids, claims Jon Hilton, Managing Partner of Flybrid Systems, which is based at the Silverstone race circuit in Northants, England.
But perhaps the biggest selling point is its price, somewhere between $1,800 and $2,000 a vehicle.