If you're into automotive, then you think of a car as being a frame onto which an engine (or motor) is mounted along with a transmission, some body work, four tires, and a windshield to make a complete vehicle. The driver climbs in, starts up the engine or gives power to the motor and drives off. Now take all of that, except the four wheels, body work, and windshield and throw it out. A car, says Ingo Valentin, inventor of the INGOCAR, is just a vehicle we get around in. It's how the car gets around that we need to rethink. Totally.
And he's done so. For years, Valentin has been working on a design in his own field of expertise: hydraulics. His idea? Toss the frame, the engine, the transmission, the brakes, and all that goes with them and replace them with hydraulic cylinders and motors.
What Valentin has done is strip modern vehicles of all of their complex systems and replaced them with pure simplicity. Electric cars are simple, but still complicated thanks to the electronics required to control them and the heavy batteries needed to store their energy. A hydraulic car is even simpler, with few (if any) control electronics required and with the hydraulic storage system itself doubling as the framework for the car. Saving space, complexity, energy, and weight.
The frame for the INGOCAR is simply an I-shaped tubular form onto which front and rear chassis components are bolted (see photo). The frame and chassis are not only modular, but scalable, so they can be up- or down-sized to create any type of vehicle preferred, from a compact car to a heavy big rig. Inside each wheel is a hydro-propelled motor with reversing valves. These motors propel the car forward or are reversed to act as brakes. When braking, they return hydraulic pressure to the tanks (frame tubes) for future use.
That's right, the Valentin design relies on compressed hydraulic fluids to store power and provide propulsion. No batteries, no oversized engines, and this braking system is capable of restoring 70-85% of the forward motion back into the car's energy storage. Compare that to electric regeneration, which is usually capable of about half that (or less).
To keep the fluids compressed and the power flowing, Valentin has two ideas: a small electric compressor or a larger, but in the end more efficient opposed piston motor. The electric would require batteries, which add to the weight of the vehicle as well as reduce its potential range. The opposed piston engine would actually have a higher MPG potential and could run on any number of fuels, depending on options preferred - so the OP engine could run on diesel, biodiesel, greasel, etc. or could be one running on gasoline, natural gas, ethyl, etc. Using a simple 2-stroke diesel opposed free piston engine on a small car with good aerodynamics, Valentin says the INGOCAR would be capable of 170mpg.
Now here's another kicker: think you'll be giving up performance? Imagine the power and performance (and instant torque) of a Tesla Roadster, but without the batteries or the noise of a traditional muscle car. The INGOCAR in a small car frame would have 670hp in potential and a 0-60mph speed of under 5 seconds. In all wheel drive, to boot.
In a crash, the I-shaped tubes are very unlikely to break, being made of the same carbon fiber layers used to make today's most advanced compressed gas cylinders for on-vehicle storage. The liquids and gases inside are not flammable nor explosive and can be made environmentally neutral as well.
Skeptical? Hydraulic assist is currently being marketed by several companies to heavy truck fleets. Refuse (garbage) trucks in Florida, New York, and other places are using the technology to save fuel and boost productivity at significant cost savings. So why isn't Valentin's car on the market? I asked him.
"I have seen far more red tape than expected. It seems it is really not red tape, more like DNA. However, if the concept and its benefits are realized, the majority of people would like it (little money for gas and zero to 60 in four seconds) and it would be difficult to directly oppose it. I assume some might try it anyway, but the possible benefits - no dependency on foreign sources of oil and clean air - are not easily overcome. In Germany, industrial vehicles (forklifts) are allowed to be built and operated with a hydrostatic power train as the main braking system. This means there is a has already been a thought process in this direction."
Which just goes to show: innovate and there will be bureaucrats to stop you.
You can find out more about the INGOCAR at Valentin Technologies.