The first air-powered cars could hit showrooms as early as next summer.
Tata, India’s largest carmaker, is set to start producing the world’s first commercial air-powered vehicle. The Air Car, developed by ex- Formula One engineer Guy Ngre for Luxembourg-based MDI, uses compressed air, as opposed to the gas-and-oxygen explosions of internal-combustion models, to push its engine’s pistons.
Some 6 000 zero-emissions Air Cars are scheduled to hit Indian streets in August 2008. Barring any last-minute design changes on the way to production, the Air Car should be surprisingly practical. The R87 000 CityCAT, one of a handful of planned Air Car models, can hit 110 km/h and has a range of 200 km. 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 R14 to fill the car’s carbon-fibre tanks with 340 litres of air at 300 bar. Drivers will also be able to plug into the electrical grid and use the car’s built-in compressor to refill the tanks in about 4 hours. Of course, the Air Car will likely never hit American shores, especially considering its all-glue construction. But that doesn’t mean the major carmakers can write it off as a bizarre Indian experiment – MDI has signed deals to bring its design to 12 more countries, including Germany, Israel and South Africa.
– Matt Sullivan