The car that runs on air has been talked about for a long time, but it now looks like it’s getting closer to reality.
Ex-Formula One engineer Guy Negre has been working on the idea of powering a car using compressed air since 1991, and now it looks like the Indian company Tata Motors will be a key player in helping to bring the car to market.
Tata will be involved in production in India, but there are also plans to produce the car around the world with factories in countries including Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and France.
The concept is that compressed air is stored on board the vehicle and this powers the car’s motor. The car can run exclusively on compressed air, but there are also plans for a hybrid version, mated with a petrol or diesel engine. When powered by air alone the range of the car is fairly short, but when combined with a petrol engine, this is extended significantly. The car won’t run on the petrol engine – this engine will be used to power the compressor to refill the air tanks when they run low.
The car can reach speeds of 68mph, and a potential range of around 200 kilometres or 125 miles at speeds of around 30mph, but that drops to about 50 miles at higher speeds.
The car comes fitted with its own compressor so you can fill up at home, by plugging it in to an electricity supply to power the compressor, but that would take around four hours. It could be refilled in three minutes if the right technology on garage forecourts existed. MDI says it should cost around $2 to fill the car’s carbon-fibre tanks with 340 liters of air at 4350 psi.
So in a way, this car is powered by electricity – which means that CO2 emissions are involved in the process at source unless renewable electricity is used. However the emissions overall will be very low.
The lightweight bodies of the vehicles would be made of glued-together fibreglass and injected foam, and the aluminum chassis would also be glued, not welded, to simplify manufacturing. This probably means that it will be used more in developing countries than the UK due to crash testing and safety implications.
Guy Negre’s company, MDI, Moteur Developpement International, is working on a variety of vehicles ranging from city cars to taxi-size vehicles.
The intention is that the vehicles are priced affordably for developing countries, around $5,000 to $12,000, and it is expected that 6000 Air Cars will be available in India in August this year.
The Air Car sounds like the solution to all of our peak oil and climate change problems, but let’s hope they improve the styling of their vehicles before bringing them to market.
View a video of the Air Car at: