Monday, August 27, 2012

Air power

Yesterday this news caught my eyes...

Tata Motors successfully tests air powered cars


The Indian car maker has completed testing of 2 air powered cars that run on, as the name suggests, compressed air.

Still in prototype stage, the car based on technology, can attain speeds in vicinity of 65km/h. The air required for propulsion is either sucked in while driving using electric motors or you need to drive into a air pumping station for your fill of Air.

 CNET says thus:

The company, which built the 'world's cheapest car' and then covered it in gems and also makes terrifying war vehicles completed testing on two vehicles that are powered by compressed air back in May. A joint-venture with MDI, the prototype-stage 'AirPod' cars apparently cost just €1 per 200km, or £0.00631899077 per mile.
CNET also calls this car a Robot Ladybird. Yea it sure looks like one!

Those who might be thinking if this idea is viable let me tell you how this car works:

First, energy has to be stored in it by squeezing the air tightly using a mechanical air compressor. Once the compressed air is released, it expands. This expanding air can be used, for example, to drive the pistons that power an engine. The idea of using compressed air to power a vehicle isn't new: Early prototypes of an air-powered vehicle go back to the middle of the 19th century, even before the invention of the internal combustion engine.

The first air cars will almost certainly use the Compressed Air Engine (CAE) developed by the French company, Motor Development International (MDI). Air cars using this engine will have tanks that will probably hold about 3,200 cubic feet (90.6 kiloliters) of compressed air. The vehicle's accelerator operates a valve on its tank that allows air to be released into a pipe and then into the engine, where the pressure of the air's expansion will push against the pistons and turn the crankshaft. This will produce enough power for speeds of about 35 miles (56 kilometers) per hour. When the air car surpasses that speed, a motor will kick in to operate the in-car air compressor so it can compress more air on the fly and provide extra power to the engine.
Another advantage of air cars is that the fuel should be remarkably cheap, an important consideration in this era of volatile gas prices. Some estimates say that the cars will get the equivalent of 106 miles (171 kilometers) per gallon, although compressed air will probably not be sold by the gallon. A more meaningful estimate is that it may take as little as $2 worth of electricity to fill the compressed air tank, though you'll also need gasoline to power the electric motor that compresses air while driving.

Now the first disadvantage would be the speed. But for most Indian roads 65 km/hr is good. We were fined when we went above 70 km per hour. It happened on our way back from Trivandrum via the MC road and while we were near Pandalam. We had just taken a turn and were stopped by the highway police. They fined us IRS 300/- and did give us a reciept. We did have company since many were caught that day.

According to the Web site Gas 2.0, an air car in the United States would create about .176 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per mile based on the average mix of electric power sources during refueling. By comparison, a Toyota Prius Hybrid, which combines a battery-powered electric motor with an internal combustion engine, generates about 0.34 pounds of carbon dioxide per mile. So, while the air car is not quite pollution free, it still represents an improvement over one of the most popular hybrid cars on the market [source: Nuccitelli].
And now the latest:

"Tata Motors (an Indian car manufacturer) is changing things up with the first car to run on air, the Airpod. The Airpod's technology was originally created in France at Motor Development International but has since been bought by Tata in hopes of bringing it to the Indian consumer car market. With virtually zero emissions and at the cost of about a penny per kilometer, it is definitely one of the most environmentally and economically friendly vehicles in the world. The tank holds about 175 liters of compressed air that can be filled at special stations or by activating the on-board electric motor to suck air in from the outside. Costing about $10,000, this car could beat out most smart cars from the market."

So is it time to look for our fortune else where? I mean, if air is going to power a few cars wont oil become less rewarding? 

Anyway, let me wish the Tatas the very best since it is one Indian company that I have much faith. 


  1. Radia tapes or not , I will put my money on the Tatas when it comes to integrity and acumen . Not the Ambanis whose founder bribed, and corrupted people and then excused all his deeds on the fallibility of human nature and the system.

    Indeed it is a research and development worth committing - the air powered car.

    1. Yes Anil.. I think most Indians share your faith in the Tatas. It will be a blow to the Ambanis since they have plunged much into the oil industry. But then I am not sure when production will start and if it will take off well.

      Let us keep our fingers crossed.


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