Autopia Planes, Trains, Automobiles and the Future of Transportation Peugeot Promises A Diesel Hybrid For 2011 Le Mans

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Peugeot and Audi have gone blow-for-blow for diesel dominance of endurance racing, and the French automaker hopes to do the Germans one better in the alt-fuel game by bringing a diesel-electric hybrid to Le Mans in 2011.

Audi has held the upper hand when it comes to diesels, and Peugeot fell to the R-15 at last weekend’s Sebring 12-hour enduro. But whatever gauntlet the Germans might have thrown down with their TDI racers has been well and truly picked up by the French.

We told you about Peugeot’s experiments with a hybrid version of its 908 HDi diesel racer back in September. Racecar Engineering now confirms Peugeot Sport plans to bring a diesel-electric to the 2011 running of the classic 24 hour endurance race.

Work is well underway on LMP1 car, with the team’s engineers scrapping further development of the 908 hybrid so they can focus on the next car, dubbed the 909 HY. That makes sense, given that driver Sébastien Bourdais dubbed the 908 diesel "old technology" at Sebring. Peugeot plans on running the 908 at Le Mans this year in hope of securing a French victory against Audi and its very impressive R-15, which won its debut at Sebring.

"Right now our problem is what to do in 2010," team technical director Bruno Famin told Racecar Engineering. "We will be back in 2011 with the new car and we are working hard on that already. The 908 HY was a demonstrator and because the regulations are not good at the moment, it sat in the garage and is not being used."

If the upcoming 909 HY is anything like the 908 HY, it will be a technical marvel. The 908 featured a hybrid system with a 60 kilowatt (80 horsepower) gear-driven electric motor in place of a conventional starter motor, 600 lithium-ion battery cells and a power converter just behind the front left wing to control the flow of energy between the batteries and the electric motor.

The ability of an electric drive motor assisting the car, both exiting corners as well as leaving the pits, could substantially lower lap times. Adding hybrid efficiency to the already impressive race MPG numbers diesel affords and Peugeot could be looking at fewer pit stops. And that could give the French a crushingly effective car when the flag drops on a Saturday afternoon in Le Mans two years hence.