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Underneath the skin of this Peugeot 2008 is Peugeot-Citroën's new Hybrid Air transmission in prototype form. The French company says that the new transmission is a big part of the company's attempts to put a production car capable of an average 141mpg on the road by 2020.

Until now, a ""˜hybrid' car has been one that combines an internal combustion engine with an additional electric drive motor and a battery pack. PSA's solution is simpler and claimed to be far more cost-effective than the petrol-electric drivetrain pioneered by Toyota and others.

While the system is dubbed ""˜Hybrid Air' it might be better described as Hybrid Hydraulic. This 2008 is primarily powered by the company's 1.2-litre, three-cylinder, naturally aspirated 81bhp petrol engine. A new gearbox has been designed for the car using a planetary gear set (similar in principle to the classic Strumey-Archer three-speed bicycle hub gear).

A production car with the Hybrid Air transmission is at least three and half years away. PSA engineers say that the company wants at least one big partner to buy into this technology for production cars before it can proceed.

Although it is estimated to be around half the factory cost of a conventional battery-electric hybrid transmission (as well as being around 15kg lighter), sources say the company will not commit to the technology unless it is rolled out on millions of B- and C-segment cars each year.

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