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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

We Need This More Than a Hog Needs His Slop! Check Out This Auto That Runs on Air

With gas prices approaching $4 a gallon, this new vehicle is needed like.....yesterday!

Check out this potential escape from OPEC, courtesy of Forbes.com:

Driving on Air

Guy Negre

Guy Negre's car can zoom about on compressed air, but can it be more than a novelty?
Concept cars, especially green ones, periodically capture the public's imagination. A while ago General Motors (nyse: GM - news - people ) was making a big deal out of hydrogen fuel cells, while spending as little time as possible discussing how the gas would be shipped and stored. Electric cars like the coming Tesla sound intriguing as long as you don't think too long or hard about the weight, durability and cost of batteries.

Now we have Frenchman Guy Negre and his Aircar, whose fuel is compressed air. What could be less polluting than air? But there are some little drawbacks. The main one is that air doesn't store much energy, so air-powered cars can't be roomy or go very far.

Negre's Motor Development International has test Aircars zipping around the French Riviera near the company's offices outside of Nice. They come in bright colors, can go 70mph and have a range of 125 miles on flat roads. The motor uses a whoosh of air to push its two pistons up and down. Exhaust from the engine consists of harmless atmospheric air, cold enough to serve as air-conditioning on a hot day. But don't try to tow a trailer with one of these things. The engine can't top 75 horsepower.

India's Tata Motors (nyse: TTM - news - people ) paid MDI $28 million a year ago for the right to build and sell Tata-branded Aircars in India. MDI is shipping a prototype to Tata this summer. Tata will either reproduce that car or, more likely, install the MDI technology in one of its existing cars, such as its recently unveiled Nano. A U.S. company called Zero Pollution Motors has purchased a license from MDI to build an Aircar factory in the States.

The absence of combustion allows MDI to use a lean aluminum engine casing. MDI's engine weighs 80 pounds, a third the weight of the powerhouse in a Toyota (nyse: TM - news - people ) Corolla. The fuel is air compressed to 4,350 pounds per square inch, or 300 times the pressure of the air you breathe. Negre insists that despite the enormous pressure, the tank, in a collision, would split down its sides, harmlessly expelling the air in a giant phoomp.

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