Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Fiat's 100-MPG MultiAir Hybrid: Nothing But Hot Air

Fiat 500

After about six years of big announcements about hybrid and electric cars from Chrysler, the company has delivered nearly zero gas-electric vehicles. Way back in 2004, Dodge was promising a Ram hybrid pickup. That never materialized. In 2008, hybrid versions of the Dodge Durango and Chrysler Aspen full-size SUVs were killed just two months after production began. (We reported about 100 sales of the Chrysler hybrids over three months.)

Those hybrids were canceled one month after Chrysler executives unveiled a set of �Sproduction intent⬝ electric cars on live national television. Not a single one of those models, such as the Dodge Circuit, will see the light of day.

Prospects for a hybrid or electric car from Chrysler became even slimmer after Fiat took control of the company. In November 2009, Fiat canceled Chrysler�"s vapor-ish ENVI program�the in-house start-up intended to develop alternative drivetrains.

Fast forward nine months: Fiat is now reportedly working on a hybrid version of its Fiat 500 TwinAir minicar. The TwinAir 900cc two-cylinder motor, combined with a hybrid system and Fiat�"s dual clutch transmission, is expected to deliver 100 miles per gallon.

Fiat's MultiAir system uses electro-hydraulic control of the inlet valves, rather than a conventional camshaft, to manage the amount of air entering the engine. This allows more precise management of combustion, reducing fuel consumption.

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