If the Cash for Clunkers incentive wasn’t enough to curb your unsettled feeling about owning a new gas guzzler, you might want to start saving for one of these truly awesome air-powered eco-rides. Sometimes called PHEV (pneumatic-hybrid electric vehicle), these cars are most typically powered by a compressed air engine combined with an electric motor. The engines are similar to steam engines as they use the expansion of externally supplied pressurized gas to perform work against a piston. Don’t settle on a fuel/electric hybrid or a biofuel burning vehicle before you take a look at our list of top 5 air powered vehicles that will soon be available in the United States.
For the sports car lover who also wants a zero-pollution vehicle, take note of San Jose Club Auto Sport, who claims to be developing the first Magnetic Air Car. Rather than the system of piston-like powered typical in most pneumatic vehicles, the manufacturer plans to use magnetic technology to generate power. The details are unfortunately not public yet, but we know that the car will use a silicon salt battery that has 30% more mass power than a typical lead-acid battery. This 95% recyclable battery charges in under an hour. Unlike gas and electric hybrids that do not perform well in cold temperatures, the Magnetic Air Car promises to operate in a temperature range from -40 degrees Celsius to 50 degrees Celsius. Their website states that they will be ready by 2010 or sooner, so check back for more details.
Korean manufacturer Energine has been showing their PHEV concept model all over the world and since they were granted a patent in the United States, we hope to see them on lots here soon. These cars have a cheerful look with its rounded exterior features covering the advanced compressed air technology. This car has a dual power system – first the air-powered engine is used for accelation, and then a secondary electrical drivetrain kicks in to keep it cruising. The first models could only maintain a speed of 74 m.p.h. for 30 minutes, but advances in performance are expected. The only exhaust from the car is in the form of cold air, which the manufactures want to use to their advantage in the vehicle’s air conditioning system. Without a fuel tank, spark plugs and cooling systems, the PHEV could cost 20% less than cars using those systems. Energine is fighting the battle toward a US-based introduction, so there is not an official release date. Their CEO, Cheol-Seung Cho, has said the issue is a “combination of lack of political will in countries where government is not willing to upset the big automotive companies, a lack of financial support, and the absence of the infrastructure to support the technology.”
This cute buggy style AirPod may not be appealing to serious speed demons or muscle car fanatics, but MDI has plans for an expanded line of vehicles that may pique your interest. The CityCAT line (meaning Compressed Air Technology) includes four door and sliding door van style vehicles that are already being developed in India, and will be available for future U.S. production. For rural countries like India and China, the car is expected to be very popular, although an electric-powered air compressor is needed to charge the 175 liter air tank. It will reach a 100+ mile range at 96 mph on one charge. The family-size, four-door CityCAT Is undergoing standard safety tests in Europe, then side-impact tests once it arrives in the States. In 2007, India’s major Tata Motors licensed the technology rights from French based MDI to build their own brand of Air Cars. MDI has has interest from 30 other countries for the technology including China a Mexico, so we might see theme all over the globe in the near future.
2. MDI OneCAT
Unveiled at the 2008 New York Auto Show, the OneCat from MDI has a style that may win over the Mini and Smart Car owners. This tiny, yet functional car is being tested in a version powered only by the compressed air, and also in a model that will use fuel together with the compressed air. The pneumatic version will get over 100 range and charge in under two minutes. The dual technology vehicle will accept Petrol, diesel, biodiesel, alcohol, and vegetal oils, is rating at 1000 miles per gallon. The OneCat fan website does not give details about the expected launch date, you can pass the time until then watching all other video coverage of the car from the auto show.
1. MDI Air Pod
Creator Guy Negre of MDI (Motor Development International) has been perfecting the technology behind the Airpod for the last fifteen years. You may have read about the early air-powered prototypes from MDI that were very noisy, but this element has been improved over time with the application of silencing technology and sound engineering. No concrete release date is available, but for their introduction in the United States, MDI has partnered with Zero Pollution Technologies. Rumor has it that they hope to sell the Airpod for $6000 to start.