The EPA is working on a technology that may be the ace in the hole for American automakers called the hydraulic hybrid system. The system laps up energy normally lost during braking, then delivers it back up to the engine to help out when the vehicle starts accelerating again. That translates into big fuel savings — an early prototype of a Ford Expedition logged mileage of 32 city/22 hwy, compared to 13/20. According to the EPA, the extra $1,000 cost for the system would pay for itself after nine months of driving.

The hydraulic hybrid system sounds a lot like the Hydraulic Launch Assist system that Ford previewed on its F-350 Tonka Concept at the 2002 Detroit Auto Show.

The hydraulic hybrid system is not a fix-all for every vehicle just yet, however. Because of the current weight of the system and the minimal improvement in highway mileage, the system will work best on heavy-duty trucks that drive predominantly in the city — like delivery trucks. Look for the system on UPS trucks next year.

Thanks to Tim for the tip.

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