A novel absorption–compression hybrid refrigeration cycle (ACHRC) driven by gases and power from vehicle engines is proposed in this article, in which R124–dimethylacetamide is used as working fluid. The ACHRC composes the absorption refrigeration subcycle powered by exhaust gases and the compression refrigeration subcycle driven by power from both automotive engines. It can also meet the technical requirements for vehicle air-conditioning systems. The thermal calculation for the ACHRC was performed under the given operating conditions in which the temperatures of cooling air, condensation and evaporation are 35 °C, 55 °C and 3 °C, respectively, and the coach air-conditioning load is 30 kW. The operating characteristics of the ACHRC, which vary with the generator load ratio and cooling air temperature, have been simulated and analyzed. The simulation results show that the maximum integration coefficient of performance of the ACHRC can reach 14.85 under the given operating conditions. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.