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Transportation Earth

100-MPG Air-Powered Car Headed To US Next Year 449

Posted by kdawson
from the x-prize-fodder dept.
An anonymous reader sends us to Popular Mechanics for word on a New York automaker with plans to introduce a US version of the air-powered car, with which India's Tata Motors made a splash last year. Zero Pollution Motors plans a sub-$18,000, 6-passenger vehicle that can hit 96 mph and gets over 100 MPG, using an untried dual engine — the air-powered motor being supplemented by a second (unspecified) engine that would kick in above 35 MPH. The company estimates that "a vehicle with one tank of air and, say, 8 gallons of either conventional petrol, ethanol, or biofuel could hit between 800 and 1000 miles." The vehicle could be introduced to the market as early as 2009.
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100-MPG Air-Powered Car Headed To US Next Year

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  • But.. (Score:5, Funny)

    by somersault (912633) on Friday February 22, 2008 @11:07AM (#22515464) Homepage Journal
    What happens when we run out of air!??!??
    • Easy (Score:5, Funny)

      by TheMadcapZ (868196) on Friday February 22, 2008 @11:09AM (#22515502)
      We steal it from Druidia. Better get working on Mega-Maid.
      • Re:Easy (Score:5, Interesting)

        by electrictroy (912290) on Friday February 22, 2008 @11:18AM (#22515620)
        I've already got a car that gets close to that:
        - Honda Insight - 80-90 mpg in real world I-95 driving (mine)

        Volkswagen is also building a car that will get 240mpg, although it's only a two-seater. It will arrive late 2009 (europe), and hopefully hit the U.S. sometime shortly after.
        • Re:Easy (Score:5, Funny)

          by Sporkinum (655143) on Friday February 22, 2008 @11:27AM (#22515770)
          In India, a Honda Insight is a 6 passenger vehicle.
        • Re:Easy (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Gordonjcp (186804) on Friday February 22, 2008 @11:49AM (#22516100) Homepage
          I had a car which got 85mpg a few years ago - the Citroën AX 1.5D - which, unlike the Honda Insight, could actually take four adults and some shopping (although the two adults in the back had to be fairly small). It probably wasn't quite as safe in a crash as an Insight, but had the advantage that pedestrians and cyclists would hear you coming.
        • Re:Easy (Score:4, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 22, 2008 @01:01PM (#22517520)
          "- Honda Insight - 80-90 mpg in real world I-95 driving (mine)"

          Bullshit.

          No, no, no, shut the fuck up, you're lying.

          God the things losers like you will lie about to get attention...
          • Re:Easy (Score:5, Informative)

            by Rei (128717) on Friday February 22, 2008 @02:10PM (#22518754) Homepage
            This may seem like a troll, but it's 100% correct. Those numbers are impossible, even with drafting.

            As for fuel efficient cars, the most efficient vehicle coming out in the near future is the Aptera Typ-1e/Typ-1h, but the Typ-1h only gets 130mpg when its battery is depleted. And this is a car with a 0.11 drag coefficient (compare to 0.26 for a Prius). It doesn't get much lower than that and still be streetlegal.

      • Re:Easy (Score:5, Funny)

        by Foobar of Borg (690622) on Friday February 22, 2008 @11:36AM (#22515868)

        Better get working on Mega-Maid
        Well, I heard that the "recharge" and "drive" settings for the air car will be labelled "suck" and "blow", respectively.
    • by CRCulver (715279)
      Then you can always pick up some helium done at your local balloon shop. Watch out for those teenagers siphoning off your tank while you're parked at the mall so that they can make funny voices.
    • by 45mm (970995) on Friday February 22, 2008 @11:11AM (#22515526)
      Ape 1: SPACEBALLS?!

      Ape 2: Oh shit ... there goes the planet ...
    • What happens when we run out of air!??!??

      It comes with an emergency air supply in the form of a very hot curry and 4 tins of baked beans.
    • Re:But.. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Sandbags (964742) on Friday February 22, 2008 @01:31PM (#22518054) Journal
      From what I can research, the air tank will power the car, all by itself, for about 200Km. With a gas engine suppliment, this could be drastically extended, upwards of 400Km I would say is a fair (safe) estimate. The cars come with their own internal pump system that can run off household electricity, but it takes upwards of 4 hours to fill the tank, and assuming it operates like any other air compressor, it will be loud. The good news is high pressure canisters could refil your tank in 3 minutes or less. Houses would almost certainly have to be equipped with high pressure home filling stations. they won't take much room, could fill 2-3 cars at once, and given all day to refill. By burying them we could eliminate most of the noise. The heat generated compressing the air could even be used for hot water (or to supplement it) as a side effect.

      Creating high pressure air (4000+ PSI) generates heat. Filling a tank with uncompressed air takes time almost as much for safety as for the actual time to compress. Filling stations could bury high volume, high efficiency compressors, divert the heat using geothermal options, and eliminate the bulk of noise. You could fill up in 3-5 minutes by using pre-pressurized air from massive underground tanks, or even massive above-ground tanks in some areas. they'd cost a bit to install, but over 10 years would pay better returns than fossil fuel stations. At home, if you had a smaller version system, you could either make hot water, or put in geothermal capacitors. The benefit to geothermal would mean in some markets you'd never have to shovel your walkway in the winter again (use heat pipes under concrete to both dispurse heat and melt snow, lol)

      It's a bit dangerous though... carbon fiber tanks at 4000+ PSI... If one ruptuers, the force released could quite litteraly throw the car a few blocks. More likely, it would simply rupture, causing the car to act like a bomb, just without flames... Vapor expansion at this level could rip people and metal apart. these tanks need to be REALLY strong to be safe, adding significantly to vehicle weight, reducing storage space, and limiting fuel economy. Sure, we can make one that goes 800KM on a fill up and has room for 4 including luggage, but there's no way the motor safety guys are ever going to allow it on the streets...

      I'm skeptical. Keep them out of my country until there's 50,000 or more of them driving around. We'll see then how safe they are.

      Also, the vehicle itself is pollution free, but making the electricity to compress the air isn't. If we're moving in this direction we'll need a major investment in free energy sources like solar and wind. Also, compressing the air locally at filling stations requires power. a lot of power. We'll need a super conducting grid to make that happen (if we plan to use clean electricity instead of current local poewr plants). Of course, the same is true for electric cars.

      High pressure air can be trucked around easy engouh too. We don't have to make air at every filling station. We could have a few small locations around town and drive trucks from key points to filling stations. This may lower the cost and complexity a bit in favor of logistics.

      We'll wait and see.
      • Re:But.. (Score:4, Informative)

        by Rei (128717) on Friday February 22, 2008 @01:58PM (#22518552) Homepage
        Autobloggreen has garnered a number of comments on this concept, most of them negative [autobloggreen.com]. To sum up:

        * The thermodynamic efficiency of air cars is worse than gasoline engines, often far worse, meaning that you *hurt* the environment by driving it.
        * The overwhelming majority of the performance of this vehicle comes from gasoline, not air
        * The company has a very bad reputation of making ludicrous claims and misrepresenting stats
        * It's made by Indian manufacturer Tata motors, not known for quality

        In short, don't bother. If you want an affordable (100 mile range without burning any gasoline, that will be on the road in a year or two, there are really three good options I can think of off the top of my head right now: the Aptera [aptera.com], the VentureOne [hybridcars.com], and the MiEV [wikipedia.org]. The Aptera is for if you want the absolute limit in energy efficiency modern tech can currently provide and want to look like you're driving a spaceship, the VentureOne is for if you want to feel like you're driving a motorcycle, and the MiEV is for if you have more than two people. I've probably missed a couple other good options, I'm sure.

        To potential EV buyers: keep an eye out for scammers. Two big ones are LionEV and Spark EV.
        To potential hydrogen car buyers: hydrogen cars are worse for the environment than gasoline cars, so don't bother.
  • I'm skeptical (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jandrese (485) <kensama@vt.edu> on Friday February 22, 2008 @11:08AM (#22515478) Homepage Journal
    Those are some rather extravagant claims for a technology that appears to be about half thought out (what if we put an engine of some kind on an air car!). My gut reaction is that they pulled that MPG number and top speed straight out of their ass.
    • Re:I'm skeptical (Score:5, Insightful)

      by PrescriptionWarning (932687) on Friday February 22, 2008 @11:10AM (#22515518)
      "My gut reaction is that they pulled that MPG number and top speed straight out of their ass."

      almost without a doubt they may have exaggerated quite a bit, but the concept seems kinda solid, maybe similar to how a Turbo or SuperCharger works, only rather than increasing the acceleration, the energy goes toward fuel economy.
      • Re:I'm skeptical (Score:5, Informative)

        by zeet (70981) on Friday February 22, 2008 @12:56PM (#22517420)
        Turbochargers do increase efficiency. The only reason that turbocharged cars often do worse than non-turbocharged cars is the tuning. Small turbodiesels often get better fuel economy than similar output non-turbo diesels.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by thegnu (557446)
      Say we halve what they claim for most practical uses (city driving), you still have 400-500 miles per 8 gallons, or 50mpg. Pretty goddamn good for a 6-passenger vehicle.
      • by palegray.net (1195047) <philip.paradis@[ ... t ['pal' in gap]> on Friday February 22, 2008 @11:45AM (#22516028) Homepage Journal
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      • by JonTurner (178845) on Friday February 22, 2008 @11:59AM (#22516378) Journal
        I wish them luck for success but I too am feeling skeptical. Here's why:

        >>400-500 miles per 8 gallons, or 50mpg. Pretty goddamn good for a 6-passenger vehicle.
        Yeah, but notice they say "six passenger vehicle" and not "vehicle with six passengers." BIG difference.

        With very low-hp automobiles, the extra weight of even one passenger can have a tremendous impact upon performance and economy. (I drive a 40hp 1964 VW Beetle so I know from whence I speak). Driven alone, my car actually performs as well as most modern cars. Add a couple passengers and suddenly it's sluggish and MPG falls into the mid-20 range.

        >>Say we halve what they claim for most practical uses (city driving), you still have 400-500 miles per 8 gallons, or 50mpg.

        Judging from the tone of the press release (they don't seem to believe it) the 95mpg figure doesn't seem likely at all. And if we take half that figure, 50mpg as you suggest, it's still better than most gasoline vehicles, but roughly on par with turbodiesels. But we need to consider this a bit further. Because low-hp vehicles are greatly impacted by laden weight, if we were to take this 6-passenger vehicle and add a couple passengers I think we'd see that 50mpg figure fall further, possibly into the range of traditional gasoline vehicles which puts it well BELOW that of turbodiesels! It takes approx 35 hp to maintain 60mph in a vehicle with average aerodynamic drag. This vehicle has approx 75hp equivalent. That leaves 40hp to accelerate a vehicle with up to 900 lbs (6x150) of passengers plus the weight of the car. Subtract parasitic losses such as alternator (headlights, heating??) or a/c compressor drag (-5 hp) and it's anemic at best. Meaning it will struggle on hills, and passing on the interstate will be difficult.

        Disappointing, but it helps us realize just how efficient a fuel-injected, turbo intercooled internal combustion engine is.
    • Re:I'm skeptical (Score:4, Informative)

      by Raistlin77 (754120) on Friday February 22, 2008 @11:17AM (#22515616)
      "I want to stress that these are estimates, and that we'll know soon more precisely from our engineers," ZPM spokesman Kevin Haydon told PM, "but a vehicle with one tank of air and, say, 8 gal. of either conventional petrol, ethanol or biofuel could hit between 800 and 1000 miles."
  • by RandoX (828285) on Friday February 22, 2008 @11:08AM (#22515480)
    How much does a gallon of air cost?
    • by hal2814 (725639) on Friday February 22, 2008 @11:12AM (#22515546)
      It depends on where you're at.

      I was over at Spaceball City the other day and a gallon of Schweppe's Air was $4! Spaceballs: The Air was even more expensive at $5. They had some cheap off brand air for $2.50 but you never know what you get with the generic stuff.

      On Mars, there's just an outright tax on air that everyone pays. It's like 15% of your income but there are expemtions for midgets and girls with 3 hooters.
    • by mdsolar (1045926) on Friday February 22, 2008 @12:36PM (#22517058) Homepage Journal
      Electric vehicles can be about 75% efficient including regenerative breaking. Presumably the drive train will be used for some slowing here recharging the air tank. Compressing air always produces substaintal waste heat so the base efficiency will be less than for a battery-motor combination. Let's say that they do well and get 50% efficiency on compressing/decompressing. In that case, if we expect about 0.2 kWh/mile for an electric vehicle, we might get 0.3 kWh/mile for this vehicle. That is about 3.3 cents/mile (11 cents/kWh). For a 30 mpg car at $3.00/gal we get a fuel cost of 10 cents/mile. So, the cost could be about a third of the cost of gas.
  • Interesting concept (Score:4, Interesting)

    by KublaiKhan (522918) on Friday February 22, 2008 @11:08AM (#22515484) Homepage Journal
    A bit different than the usual 'hybrid' gas/electric design.

    I'd like to know how the air tank would be refilled, though. I mean, gas stations already have air compressors for your tires, but would that put out enough pressure to fill the tank in your car?

    Or will this strictly be an 'around town' sort of car, and you'd have to rent something for long trips?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by NewAndFresh (1238204)
      Not sure about this one, but of one (air only) version:

      It will take only a few minutes for the CityCAT to refuel at gas stations equipped with custom air compressor units; MDI says it should cost around $2 to fill the car's carbon-fiber tanks with 340 liters of air at 4350 psi. Drivers also will be able to plug into the electrical grid and use the car's built-in compressor to refill the tanks in about 4 hours.
      I wonder how much those custom air compressors cost?
    • by yog (19073) * on Friday February 22, 2008 @11:58AM (#22516354) Homepage Journal
      The air car may herald a whole new era in energy currency. Far from being a specialized and refined product extracted from the ground at great cost, air is freely available, and the stored potential energy of the vehicle is created by a pump. We will start to look at stored energy as the currency rather than a high energy liquid like gasoline.

      Imagine a barter system in the future where we might have to get on an exercycle type of machine to pump up an engine. The local diner might charge either $10 for a meal or one hour on the pump. Homeless and working poor could thus eat for the cost of an hour's exercise.

      If you run out of gas in the middle of nowhere, just get out the pump from the accessory compartment in the trunk, hook it up, and start pedalling. After 3-4 hours of fat burning cardiovascular workout, you will have enough stored energy to move your car 20 miles down the road to the service station. And as an added bonus, you'll be in fantastic shape!

      Buildings could hook up pumps to revolving doors as a way to "steal" energy to power their lighting systems, etc. Even the floors might consist of pistons hidden under the carpet that are compressed as you walk on them. Walking down a hall would feel like climbing a stair, something the health newsletters advise us to do more often anyway.

      Of course, people in windy areas would probably want to use windmills to directly pump up our cars overnight.

      It's interesting stuff to think about.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        These cars will have their air tanks filled to super high pressures. You will never get a usable compact human powered refill pump, let alone fill the car at a rate of 5 miles per hour of effort.

        However, if the trunk contained a folding bicycle, you could ride 20 miles in a bit over an hour, and fetch help.

        Or you could just call for road service on your cell phone. I can imagine tow trucks being equipped with high-speed air pumps to refill air tanks of stranded vehicles. Those high-speed pumps would be p
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Bagheera (71311)
        Interesting concept, but human beings just don't produce all that much horsepower. I mean think about it. Could you push your car 20 miles in 3 to 4 hours? Must people would be challenged to walk 20 miles in 4 hours, let alone do it pushing a car. Now, factor in how much energy you lose to heat compressing the air for the tank, and you see where this is going.

        Compressed air really isn't an ideal energy storage media. Though it does have the advantage of being freely available and non-toxic.

        As for worki
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Chandon Seldon (43083)

        I think you're massively overestimating the amount of energy that humans can generate.

        Here's some math:

        The recommended daily energy intake for a person is around 2000 food calories. That's around 8 million joules. A Watt is a joule per second, so a humans entire daily food intake is (with perfect efficiency) is almost enough to constantly power a 100 Watt lightbulb.

        The smallest engine that has been used in the Smart Fortwo is rated at 37,000 Watts. That means that the output of the engine on a tiny car i

  • simple (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 22, 2008 @11:10AM (#22515506)
    For an additional $5000 the car comes equipped with a politician and a special adapter to route all the hot air into the tank.
    • >>For an additional $5000 the car comes equipped with a politician and a special adapter to route all the hot air into the tank.

      That's a rip off - around here, you can buy a politician for a lot less than $5000. :)

      MadCow.
  • Rental (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bigattichouse (527527) on Friday February 22, 2008 @11:10AM (#22515516) Homepage
    I think the only way they'd get past the "burp-car" or "fart-car" stigma would be to start offering them as rental cars - let people drive them around a lot. Then they might have a market. (Unless they just come in at $2500 - then they'll sell a billion of them)
  • "Zero Pollution"? (Score:5, Informative)

    by johndiii (229824) * on Friday February 22, 2008 @11:11AM (#22515532) Journal
    Probably no such thing. At the very least, there is waste heat from the mechanical processes of the automobile. The energy require to accelerate a vehicle to a certain speed will be roughly the same, regardless of the source. In the case of the "air-powered car", the energy used to compress the air could come from a coal-fired power plant. Is that better than burning gasoline? I don't know, and I would be very interested to see a comprehensive analysis.

    In considering the environmental impact of a particular vehicle, there are a number of factors to consider:
    • How the energy is obtained in the first place. From petroleum drilled out of the ground, a coal mine, natural gas, solar power, nuclear power, and so on.
    • The efficiency of conveying the energy from the source to the user. Coal and petroleum products are relatively good for this (some loss to evaporation for gasoline, I imagine). For remotely-generated electricity, there would be transmission losses. If you charge your electric car from a solar panel on your roof, much less so.
    • How the energy is stored (or storage losses). This is one of the big issues with hydrogen. It tends to seep through containers. Compressed air would be a similar problem. A leak in your compressed air tank has an environmental effect just as a lead in your gas tank, and is harder to detect. It's more efficent to store a liquid than a compressed gas.
    • The efficiency of converting the stored energy into motion of the vehicle. What are the thermal losses for state changes? Friction in the engine?

    There are probably more factors, some very difficult to isolate. And there are safety factors - gasoline is flammable, but easy to detect if it starts to leak. Hydrogen, on the other hand, you would not notice at all until your car decided to emulate the Hindenberg. :-)

    Zero pollution is a good goal, but unless all of the factors are considered, it's just marketing hype.

    • by Lumpy (12016)
      Also the amount of atomized hydrocarbons in the air coming out of the "tailpipe" will be high. you cant run a compressor an air motor without lubrication and you will get atomization of that lubrication and it will exit the vehicle in the exhaust air.

      You can use cooking oil for lubrication but synthetic oils would be better. problem is we dont know the health aspects of aspiration of atomized synthetic oils as they really have not done tests on that yet.
      • by Rob Riggs (6418)

        you cant run a compressor an air motor without lubrication and you will get atomization of that lubrication and it will exit the vehicle in the exhaust air.

        How much? I'm a sport diver and I've never tasted lubricant in the compressed air.

        problem is we dont know the health aspects of aspiration of atomized synthetic oils as they really have not done tests on that yet.

        If your concerns are founded, it wouldn't be hard to find test subjects. You'll find a reasonably sized population of professional divers hav

    • by thegnu (557446)
      Dude, it's the name of the company. Of COURSE it's marketing hype. Should they call their company "Relatively Very Low-Pollution Motors"?

      Then, you'll have the engineering geeks getting on your ass about the fact that it's actually an engine, not a motor. So "Relatively Very Low-Pollution Engines"? Thank god we got that straightened out.
      [/jerk]
      but I do agree with your point. People should consider this more often. Like pollution-motivated vegetarians who eat goji berries from halfway around the world.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Dusty00 (1106595)
      Large scale power generation such as power plants are significantly more efficient than the small scale of an internal combustion engine. That's the difference. If my car is powered by electricity generated at a power plant, yea there's still pollution but a lot less energy is wasted and hence, less pollution per mile.
    • by RingDev (879105)

      Zero pollution is a good goal, but unless all of the factors are considered, it's just marketing hype.
      Actually, it's neither. It's the companies name.

      'Bear Wiz Beer' does not contain bear urine.
      'Zero Pollution' cars produce pollution.

      -Rick
    • by pizzach (1011925)
      Call me uneducated, but cars running on air sound much less like marketing hype to me than electric cars. 1. Unlike an electric car, you do not have an expensive, heavy battery that you have to figure out how to recycle when it is dead. 2. The internals of the car are likely much simpler than with an electric car. 3. No exploding batterys / hydrogen. This is just compressed air. If there is a hole in the tank, it leak air. The tank is designed to fail gracefully. 4. It's likely much easier to outfit
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mh1997 (1065630)

        1. Unlike an electric car, you do not have an expensive, heavy battery that you have to figure out how to recycle when it is dead. 2. The internals of the car are likely much simpler than with an electric car. 3. No exploding batterys / hydrogen. This is just compressed air. If there is a hole in the tank, it leak air. The tank is designed to fail gracefully. 4. It's likely much easier to outfit a gas station to dispence air than hydrogen. 5. You can fill it at home if you want.

        Assuming the technology works

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Darkfred (245270)

        Call me uneducated, but cars running on air sound much less like marketing hype to me than electric cars.

        Ok, uneducated.
        You seriously believe that the proven technology in electric vehicles is more hype than this? This article is entirely hype, these guys have nothing to show except for estimates. They are looking for funding.

        1. Unlike an electric car, you do not have an expensive, heavy battery that you have to figure out how to recycle when it is dead.

        You could cut the FUD crap with a knife.

        The batteries for the Tesla roadster, an actual production vehicle, unlike this concept. Cost around $9000. And need replacing every 5 years. (This adds a fixed cost of around $0.12 a mile for my average driving, but I don't commute very far) Batt

    • Re:"Zero Pollution"? (Score:5, Informative)

      by cupofjoe (727361) on Friday February 22, 2008 @12:06PM (#22516496)
      Another Hindenburg reference. Great fricking Caesar's Ghost.

      Seriously, though - and on a tangent for a sec - he's got a point. No, not about a hydrogen-fueled car ACTUALLY bursting into flames a'la the great Lakehurst weenie roast (that's why he used a smiley-face, I guess) but - unwittingly - about the public's perception of the implications of having hydrogen on-board a road vehicle.

      The truth is, technology wants to go in a safer direction. The US DOE is spending a lot of money - well-spent, in my opinion - on developing components of an automotive approach to hydrogen fuels, including infrastructure, end-to-end efficiency and cost, and of course materials science and engineering.

      Check out http://hydrogen.energy.gov/ [energy.gov]

      The long and the short of it is this: the current standard is to store compressed hydrogen on-board in 5000 psig tanks; the tech maturation for this approach is to up the ante to 10000 psig. Yikes; no wonder the public has the wrong idea - that's a lot of mechanical energy stored up in there. Some of the more interesting (but not new) technology DOE is funding is for "absorptive" storage, both liquid- and solid-state, wherein the hydrogen isn't at high levels of compression - rather, it's safely (for the most part) tucked away inside the molecular structure of a parent "carrier" substance. At fairly low pressures (~15-150 psig), for the most part.

      Okay, tangent over. In the interest of full disclosure, I am a hydrogen materials engineer. And I'm WAY more frightened of gasoline vapors than I am of hydrogen in any form.

      Cheers,
      --joe.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by horza (87255)
      In France over 80% of energy is nuclear and electricity is cheap. I know the UK has high renewable energy targets. It is easier to monitor pollution from a small number of coal/oil plants than emissions from millions of vehicles. I don't think it's ever been reducing pollution and cost of transport that has been the problem with electric/air/hydrogen but the initial purchase cost and the limited range. Especially the latter.

      The reason the Tesla can out-accelerate a Ferrari is that there is no loss through a
  • by brennanw (5761) * on Friday February 22, 2008 @11:11AM (#22515540) Homepage Journal
    ... then I think I'd be willing to buy one. Although I really don't like the way they look. Still, I could suffer through the faux-Jetson design if it's a genuine 100mpg driving experience.

    I do dread the inevitable tech support calls, though.
  • I'd buy one (Score:2, Insightful)

    by BigJClark (1226554)

    and a litre of your best snake oil, sir!
  • by apathy maybe (922212) on Friday February 22, 2008 @11:12AM (#22515548) Homepage Journal
    Small cars that use little fuel are great. And in cities (where most people drive), it doesn't matter if it only gets a few hundred kilometres (did someone say miles? what are they?), as that is more then enough to get you home again.

    As for speed, again, if you are driving in a city, there is no need to drive more then ~60 kilometres an hour (~30 miles an hour I think).

    (Of course, I still prefer my (push) bike, bikes are a heck of a lot safer then cars, imagine if everyone had a bike instead of a petrol guzzling car. There would be a lot fewer accidents. Of course, sometimes you need to carry more stuff or more people, simple, just ring up your local car sharing co-op!)
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      I don't know what city you're in, but here we have freeways (65-75 mph) and even on the main streets the speed limit is 45mph (so most sane people go 50-55mph).
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by bishiraver (707931)
      Which is why typical electric cars don't get traction in the US.

      A majority of people live in suburban areas - not cities. The way these areas of the country are laid out, one must drive 5-10 minutes to your grocery store, 10-20 minutes to work (usually on a highway requiring speeds of 60+mph / 96kph), 5-10 minutes to the local big-box store (walmart, target, kohls, best buy, etc). This is one of the reasons I hate suburbia - it truly condones and perpetuates impracticality. Imagine riding your bicycle 12
  • by peter303 (12292)
    I [ used to } hear they run at 100+ audio decibels.
  • Governments really need to regulate green washing such as this companies name.
  • Those have to be like 8" rims. With tires that small, cruising at 96 MPH would be a bit of a white knuckled experience. Any bump or divet in the road is going to feel like you're hitting a curb in a car that light with that small of wheels. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to see what this vehicle can do in the real world, but 1000 miles @ 96 MPH is either a purely hypothetical calculation, or a Dyno run.

    -Rick
  • vaporware (Score:4, Funny)

    by metamechanical (545566) on Friday February 22, 2008 @11:15AM (#22515576)
    This gives a new meaning to the word "vaporware" :P
  • Everything I've heard so far on the topic of air powered cars leads me to think that compressed air is a pretty bad way to transfer energy. What do we burn to create the energy to compress the air?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by plague3106 (71849)
      Well, we could go nuclear. At any rate, having millions of "clean" cars and a few plants to generate power will let us focus on making the plants as clean as possible. Then if fusion ever happens, we can start building those without changing the cars.

      Indirection solves yet another problem!
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by sm62704 (957197)
        Well, we could go nuclear

        Nuclear waste needs to be stored forever. I don't know if that's worse than emmissions and global warming or not; I'm just a layman.

        By the time fusion happens, all our present tech [kuro5hin.org] will be obsolete [kuro5hin.org] anyway.
  • using an untried dual engine


    How can they claim the numbers they're claiming without trying out the engine first?

    "Using an untried technique of dropping a squirrel into the gas tank, we're able to get 100 MPG on our vehicles."

    Uhh...
  • Pirate Car? (Score:4, Funny)

    by jetpack (22743) on Friday February 22, 2008 @11:17AM (#22515610) Homepage
    FTFS: "The vehicle be introduced to the market"


    Arrrrrr, Matey!

  • OK, I know I'm somewhat immature for my age, but a product called Tata is just one I will never be able to deal with without snickering like a teenage boy.

    I will pluralize that sucker and use it all the time. "Oooh, look at the Tatas", "we've done extensive market research, and we're just not sure America is ready for Tatas", "Man crushed under Tatas in garage".

    I'm sure I could come up with lots more, but that would deprive someone else from trying.

    Cheers
  • by Phoenix666 (184391) on Friday February 22, 2008 @11:23AM (#22515700)
    We need a paradigm shift in transportation, because it causes so much climate change.

    My immediate family is lucky, economically--we live in New York and don't need a car; but that doesn't exempt us from the environmental consequences of the internal combustion engine.

    But even environmental consequences aside, the rising cost of oil has put the squeeze on the rest of my family who aren't fortunate enough to live in areas where public transportation is available/reliable/efficient. When you consider the relative share of annual income that they pay for basic transportation versus mine, it's dramatic how high such a fundamental cost of living is in the United States.

    So, ask yourself--how competitive can an economy remain when it spends such an out-sized amount on such a basic service? It should be driving the costs of transportation down to the level of a utility and investing the surplus in cutting-edge technologies.
    • by Bryansix (761547)

      We need a paradigm shift in transportation, because buying oil funds global terrorism.
      There I fixed that for you.
  • by Dzimas (547818) on Friday February 22, 2008 @11:23AM (#22515702)

    OK, so you use an electric engine to drive a compressor which then drives the wheels. Or - even worse - you'll use a gasoline engine to compress the air. It's true that you'll get "zero pollution" while driving, but this vehicle is going to use significantly more energy than a vehicle that uses an electric or gasoline engine to drive the wheels directly. And that means *more* pollution, not less. There is a reason that we don't use compressed air to anything larger than toy cars and rockets - it has an incredibly low energy density compared to a tankful of hydrocarbon-based fuel.

    This is yet another "clean energy" idea that preys on the naieve.

  • Pressure (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mikej (84735) on Friday February 22, 2008 @11:25AM (#22515740) Homepage
    How heavily compressed is the air in the storage tank, and how rugged will the tank be? Think about the consequences for both cars if this thing gets rear-ended or sideswiped hard enough to rupture the tank...
  • But What About... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by MarkAyen (726688)
    TFA is long on hype, but severely lacking in details. And contradictory, or at least misleading. It refers to the Air Car as "gas free", but later states that is uses a "supplemental energy source" for speeds over 35 mph and that it can take "conventional petrol, ethanol or biofuel". Maybe that's not strictly speaking "gas", but until we have a biofuel refueling infrastructure, that means good old pump gas.

    There are also a lot of unanswered questions about the pressurized air tanks. How much pressure
  • Even on the face of it, putting in 8 gallons of gas + a huge amount of energy and getting back 800 miles does not mean 100 mpg.

    If that were the case, a purely electric car that let a thimble of gas evaporate in the back would get 1000s of miles per gallon.

    We don't even need to argue about whether this is really going to come anywhere near its claims (it isn't), safe (it isn't), or actually efficient when you consider the energy that it takes to compress air (it isn't).

    We can just end at how stupid their cla
  • by jekewa (751500) on Friday February 22, 2008 @11:34AM (#22515850) Homepage Journal
    I saw this on the television and thought it looked pretty cool, pun kind of intended.

    Arguably one could compress one's own air in the garage with a wind or solar powered compressor and fuel the thing for "free." Certainly that would be an option for some (in windier areas) people and even filling stations. Otherwise, of course, we're just moving the pollution from the streets to the power plants that then have to power all of the compressors.

    The thing that kicked the idea for me is that the car seems potentially impractical for those of us that live in temperate regions. For a large part of the year, our vehicles need to generate heat for the passenger compartment. In your typical gas-powered motorized vehicle, this is heat taken from the cooling system. Sure, the old VW Beetle had an electric heater in it, but anybody who had one in sub-zero climates can tell you that they don't always cut it. It's probably the case that the improvements in seat-based heating and technology in general will make the heaters more useful. Perhaps the size of the cabin will help. It also needs to be considered that the light-weight construction of the body may not allow for an awful lot of insulation.

    Along the same lines, those tiny wheels wouldn't make it through the snow. A 75HP motor seems like enough to power some larger wheels, but what's the torque like, and how much impact is that larger drive-train gonna have? And once you start adding that bottom weight, how much is that going to force changes in the rest of the car, and will it spiral out of control such that the power plant is no longer sufficient?

    In warmer areas, like I'd like to move to, it seems a very practical commuter vehicle. I have to imagine someone has thought of routing the exhaust through a cooling system, allowing the engine to cool the cabin without needing an environmentally unfriendly air conditioner. On good paved roads the tiny wheels might only be a hindrance to top speeds, where larger wheels might be needed for rougher roads, like those with cracks and potholes. (Yeah, I may have a thing against tiny wheels...)

    There is also a safety factor. In places where everyone drives small cars, this will fit right in, but in the US, too many SUVs and large sedans compete for the same road as these. It'll probably be the same as with motorcycles; they're safer when you get a bunch of them together than individually ripping through traffic. Once there's a lot of them on the road, this should shift so that the small cars will dominate, and the larger ones will be the exceptions.

    Heck, someone should suggest to "reverse" the HOV lanes and force the big vehicles over there, allowing the smaller vehicles to have the other lanes; which could probably be narrowed, and would be less congested as all of the vehicles would be shorter and everyone would be closer to their destination by the time the traffic jam started .
    • Exactly (Score:3, Interesting)

      by JonTurner (178845)
      If they're heating the air charge to increase the volume/pressure then I suppose that efficiency would increase as ambient air temperatures decreases, but what does this automobile do to provide passenger cabin heat? If the heat extraction from the burned fuel is efficient (and I imagine it must be) then waste heat is unavailable for the cabin.

      This is one of the substantial (and as yet to date, unsolved) issues for an all-electric car serving in anywhere other than a tropical climate -- at some point you mu
  • by Iberian (533067) on Friday February 22, 2008 @11:37AM (#22515888)
    Say instead we took the same car and replaced the engine with a small 1.2 litre diesel. Now calculating in the cost of the compressed air and comparing it to the cost of diesel to go 1000 miles which is cheaper?

    May even debate which is greener considering that the compressed air didn't jump in the tank itself
  • by Animats (122034) on Friday February 22, 2008 @11:38AM (#22515912) Homepage

    Is there a drivable prototype of this thing? Has anyone from Motor Trend or Auto Week ever had a good look at it? For any real car, the prototypes precede volume production by several years.

    Accusations of fraud are flying between the Air Car people. [theaircar.com]. Apparently there are two Air Car groups, and they don't get along.

    Tata Motors has nothing on their web site about the "air car". They do have a page of their concept cars [tatacarsworldwide.com], and the Air Car isn't on there. They're coming out with the Tata Nano, at $2500. The Tata Nano is conventionally powered. There's an electric version of the Tata Ace mini-truck [autoblog.com], and those should be coming to the US this year. But there is no Air Car or "City Cat" from Tata that I can find.

    This looks like vaporware.

  • by RealProgrammer (723725) on Friday February 22, 2008 @11:39AM (#22515924) Homepage Journal
    I think Spielberg built a huge PR hill to climb for the litigious American market. Ever see Jaws [kwc.org]? As Mythbusters showed, in the extremely unlikely event that an air tank ruptured, it would typically expirate rather explode. It would be difficult indeed to make the tank explode, but that's the image I have.

    A twist on that by which the energy industry could rake in profit is by declaring it unsafe to use compressed air. Instead only compressed CO2 or Nitrogen should be used, to avoid fire hazard.

    O'course, that kind of undermines efficiency for braking, which should best be done by compressing air. Maybe they could use two tanks and use the difference in potential (pressure) between the two in a closed system.

  • and told her that i liked her tatas

    she slapped me

    why does she hate fuel economy?
  • by MrSteveSD (801820) on Friday February 22, 2008 @12:08PM (#22516532)
    It will definitely keep you fit. I believe the vehicle will also have a hole in the floor so you can supplement the engine with some legwork.
  • Snake oil (Score:5, Informative)

    by killbill! (154539) on Friday February 22, 2008 @12:22PM (#22516780) Homepage
    In this house, we obey the laws of thermodynamics!

    Compressed air is a terrible way to store energy. There's about 250 times less [wikipedia.org] energy in compressed air than in gasoline. Do the math. It's impossible to make a useable car that is powered solely by compressed air. The energy just isn't there.

    It's possible, however, to make a working hybrid gasoline-compressed air vehicle. But as far as the hybrid component goes, batteries are a much better candidate.

    The car in TFA is based on the MDI AirCar, which is a greener version of the Moller Skycar. In other words, a scam. Whenever the company needs money, they write a few press releases, and some naive investor falls for it.

    The company has allegedly dozens of licensing deals all over the planet. But not a single production vehicle has been built. It was supposed to be coming out "real soon now" 10 years ago. In 10 more years, it will still be "right around the corner".
  • by JungleBoy (7578) on Friday February 22, 2008 @12:45PM (#22517218)
    I live and work in Montana & Alaska, and wonder would there be any efficiency loss at low temperatures? How would these air engines work at -40[c|f]? Also, since they are decompressing air, creating a chilling effect, would this cause additional problems at low ambient temperatures?

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