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Compressed Air Vehicle - Has the Electric Car Met its Match?

By James Burgess | Tue, 21 August 2012 21:00 | 5

EV’s are so last season. Those of you into the latest and greatest clean energy technologies need to get yourself a car that runs on compressed air.

The idea of an air powered car has been around for a while but the technology is incredibly difficult to master. Indian car company Tata Motors is developing its Airpod as a next generation, zero pollution vehicle.

The Luxembourgian engine manufacturing company, MDI, has been working on a motor that can run on nothing more than compressed air for over twenty years, and five years ago Tata bought the rights to sell this motor in India. In May the company confirmed that it had successfully completed stage one by testing out the engines in two different vehicles.

The car has space for three passengers, and can travel at 40mph. The tank holds 175 litres of compressed air which can be bought from a specialist station, or taken from the air by activating an on-board electric pump. Tata claim that filling the tank will cost only €1 and then last for about 125 miles.

By. James Burgess of Oilprice.com

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  • Andrew Palmer on August 23 2012 said:
    Some brief background research would reveal that MDI has been promising a production engine for some time now, and have never delivered.

    Also, consideration of some basic thermodynamics would reveal the flaws in the design - as someone has pointed out, the pressure required to provide the advertised mileage and speed would be incredibly high. Coupled with the losses of pumping air into the tank in the first place (and the power source required for that pump), the cooling of the air as it is used in the engine, and the losses in the engine, this solution is much less efficient than electric cars (when the entire system is considered).

    Finally, the last paragraph seems to have been copied from some press release without any thought as to its plausibility - what powers this on-board compressor? Batteries? An internal combustion engine? What is the sense in that? It's just adding an extra transfer of energy between storage media, with extra losses.
  • Hans Nieder on August 22 2012 said:
    I am not holding my air (breath)...
  • Ron in Austin on August 22 2012 said:
    I have my doubts. No mention of the pressures involved. When I worked for an oil well service company in the 70s it was well known that a few hundred psi could be fatal under the right conditions. I'd be surprised if the technology in these cars required orders of magnitude more pressure. That will be like driving around with a bomb in your car. If you have a crash the potential is for an explosion, not just a fire.

    Do a web search for NO2 tank explosions for reference.
  • Alfonso Carrete on August 22 2012 said:
    Incredible. I had briefly heard about this years ago, but I suspect it is not among the best interest of many energy companies and goverments, so I suspect we will find some fiery opposition from many to implement this solution on some countries.
    This sounds a much simpler approach compared to what many are doing to maximize energy savings on transportation and preserve the environment. Love the good news.
  • Stan B on August 22 2012 said:
    This is a great idea for warmer climates. The engine block actually cools during operation (expanding air chills the block) so A/C is not an issue. Blowing air across the engine block with a battery powered fan would cool the passenger compartment as well!

    For cooler climes (think midwest and northeast United States in Winter) you would need an alternate source of heat to keep the passenger compartment warm. Probably something akin to a space heater, although it would probably have to be propane, as electricity would be at a premium in such a car and electrical generation would greatly reduce mileage.

    Love the idea though. If they can get the speed up to 50, and keep the range, this might represent a "commuter" car for the United States!

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