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SVOboy 08-26-2008 09:43 PM

106-mpg Air Car for Only $18,000 Coming in 2010


The idea of an air-powered car may remind of you that Simpsons episode featuring Ed Begley, Jr. and his car, which is “powered by [his] own sense of self-satisfaction,” but it’s a real idea. Modern gasoline and diesel engines use the force of combustion to push the pistons downward and generate power. Similarly, air-powered engines feed bursts of highly compressed air into the engine to force the piston downward and create forward momentum.
It works, but is it practical?

Yes! Or, at least, possibly. As with many of these emerging technologies there are both upsides and downsides compared to existing petroleum based cars. Surely not an exhaustive list, but here are some of those issues.


* Air can be compressed using power from the grid, which has cleaner emissions than normal cars and can come from renewable energy sources.
* Air cars could be filled up at home or on the road. Unlike electric cars, air cars could fill up more quickly and therefore get the necessary range boosts for long trips.
* Air cars can be hybrids, just like gasoline vehicles, for range-extension.


* There are still a lot of questions about the safety of carrying around large amounts of highly compressed air.
* Unlike electric cars, air cars still have a lot of moving parts that could fail.
* They are untested on the large scale

Coming in 2010: 106-mpg, $18,000 air car

That’s if you believe the claims of the inventors, MDI. MDI is a European company that has been working with the concept of air-powered vehicles since it was founded in 1991. Though they won’t be bringing the car Stateside themselves, they’re working with a NY-based company called Zero Pollution Motors to do so.

The first thing you’ll notice is the “106-mpg” figured. Since it doesn’t use gas, how can it have a “miles per gallon” figure tagged on with it? Well, as ZPM explains, that is really an mpg-equivalent figure used to compare the air car’s efficiency to gasoline-powered vehicles:

If you can, imagine a vehicle that runs on air, achieves over 100 gas-equivalent mpg and over 90 mph, has zero to low C02 emissions, seats six, has plenty of space for luggage, cuts no safety corners, and costs no more than an average economy to mid-size vehicle.

106 is definitely a high number, and as ZPM points out, is much higher than any car on the US market at the moment. I don’t know if I believe it, but I know that number is easily in reach for many electric cars, so I don’t see why it would be impossible in this case. Once the car hits the market, however, I’m sure will hear a lot more about the claimed efficiency ratings.

Similarly, you can check out the price tag here. ZPM states that using sales techniques like direct marketing, they can drive the starting-cost down to $17,800, which is a pretty good deal when you consider that it’s cheaper than any hybrid on the market.

The car will feature a 75hp engine, which allows it to reach speeds of 90 mph and have a range of up to 800 miles on any given “fill.” Though the car will be a bit more complex to operate than an EV, it will only need oil changes every 30k miles and can cost as little as $2 in electricity to fill up the air tank.

I’ll be excited to see how it does in the upcoming X-Prize competition. For now, you can find out more details at the ZPM site.

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Katana 08-27-2008 05:46 AM

I hate to be cynical on this, but I've read about this car for the past 5-6 years, and it's always only 2 years away. They made the engine, it works even if it's noisy. I hope they can bring it to the market, would be a shame if it faded away from lack of money.

Most people are put off it by the compressed air tank, which is compressed at 300 Bar (4350 PSI) if i remember correctly, though the tank is designed to fracture and slowly let air out rather than a massive blowout, though no one has demonstrated this yet and doing so would quell any lingering fears.

I personally don't like the look of it, they are a french company so you'd expect the design to be slightly weird and funky, but it isn't, and something about it just doesn't look safe, even if it is in tests.

cfg83 08-27-2008 01:23 PM

SVOboy -

My wife sent me an e-mail on Zero Pollution Motors a few weeks ago. This is what I wrote :


Good find! This is a design that has been licensed by Tata Motors, the "GM of India". I keep thinking it will be a "short range" car in it's initial form, similar to the 35 MPH max "around town" electrics. However, the specifications are saying different (subject to change, however!!!!!) :

Length - 13.4 ft
Width - 5.97 ft
Height - 5.74 ft
Seating - 6 seats
Trunk volume - 35 cubic ft
Weight - 1874 lbs
Engine - 6 Cyl.
Power - 75 hp
Max Speed - 96 mph *
Mileage - 106 mpg *
Range - 848 miles (8 gal tank) *
Co2 - 0.141 lbs/mile (at speeds >35mph; zero emissions at <35mph)

* estimated performance and subject to change

Assuming you can fill it overnight at home, and assuming it offers "Smart Car" crash standards, it would be a squeeky clean commuter.


Johnny Mullet 08-27-2008 09:45 PM

Duke Nukem Forever released in 2008!

dentprone 08-27-2008 11:52 PM


Originally Posted by Johnny Mullet (Post 56634)
Duke Nukem Forever released in 2008!

:D HAHAHAHAHA......arrrrghhhhh

Ryland 08-28-2008 12:02 AM

how are they planing to get around the problem of the engines freezing up? air powered cars have been around for years but have only been sold/used in very warm areas because as you release a compressed gas it will cool the tank and the exhaust side of the engine and unless you keep it warm it will freeze up solid.
also, air compressors are horribly inefficient and have their own set of problems, just talk to someone who works in a factory that uses compressed air, or has worked on large air compressors.
The only advantage that I can see with this is that to make the energy storage you just need to build a strong enough tank, unlike a battery that needs rare metals, and the engine is just a steam engine running on air, it could be made out of almost anything, from crude to exotic.

groar 08-28-2008 04:06 AM


Originally Posted by Katana (Post 56415)
I hate to be cynical on this, but I've read about this car for the past 5-6 years, and it's always only 2 years away. They made the engine, it works even if it's noisy. I hope they can bring it to the market, would be a shame if it faded away from lack of money.

MDI (a French company ;) ) had financial problems to finish the design. Thanks to Tata's investment they have been able to finish it and now the Tata nano is the real life bed test.

For France MDI promised an hybrid. I don't know if I will buy it when released, but I do want to see it wild spread in real life.


lunarhighway 08-28-2008 05:54 AM

the technology is valid, so i hope it'll come into production on an acceptable scale.
one must considder it's like compareing the first gasolene engine with the current ones.
the basic technology is the same but it's much more refined economical and probably a little safer to, so if this gets a chance to grow and the "fuel" cost is competetive with the alternatives the time is right for this.

Tony Raine 08-28-2008 09:44 AM

yeah, the tank thing worries me. show me a test where they drop a bulldozer on the tank. crude, yes. but if it doesn't turn into the equivalent of a couple sticks of dynamite, then i'm sold.

NeilBlanchard 08-28-2008 10:46 AM


Gasoline is incredibly explosive: 1 gallon of gas equals 63 sticks of dynamite.

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