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Hybrid Air Car Could Get 117 mpg, Says Peugeot Citroen

PSA Peugeot Citroen(NEW YORK) -- With gas in the United States averaging $3.31 per gallon this week and the average car getting about 27 mpg in regular driving, it may feel like you're handing over your life savings every time you go fill up the tank.

Some gas-electric hybrids can do better than 50 mpg, but not a lot of people own them.  And though you spend less on gas, you generally spend more up front on the price of the car.

But what if someone offered you a car that could get up to 117 mpg in city driving and would cost about $1,500 less than typical hybrids?  

Peugeot Citroen, the French automaker, has now shown off a prototype for such a car and claims on its website that it could start selling air-hybrid cars in Europe by 2016.  

The company, according to European news reports, says that on local streets, the cars would mostly run on compressed air, cutting gasoline use -- and costs -- by as much as 80 percent.  There would be a sturdy tank of compressed air in the floor or trunk, recharged by the engine or brakes.  The technology would start in existing subcompact models, the company said, but soon expand to include vehicles of all sizes.

“We are not talking about weird and wacky machines,” a company spokesman was quoted as saying.  “These are going to be in everyday cars.”

Peugeot Citroen says it took on “the challenge of creating an environmentally friendly vehicle,” and expects it would also save its customers money.  It got some backing from the French government, which, like the U.S. government, is pushing automakers to get better fuel efficiency.

But will it be viable?  Peugeot and Citroen, which joined forces in the 1970s, both pulled out of the U.S. market decades ago, and have been losing market share in Europe.  It’s important for them to look innovative.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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