Lea Stewart

Top Five Air Powered Vehicles

by , 10/01/09

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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.

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5. Magnetic Air Car

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.

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4. Energine PHEV

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.”

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3. MDI/Tata Motor CityCAT

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.

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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. 

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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.

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4 Comments

  1. Nodes November 21, 2009 at 1:30 am

    The key isues for air cars are that compressed air is the most effiicient way to store microcapture energy:- photovoltaice trickle feed, passive solar panel and low-speed wind energy; so there si ptentialto run your car from your own energy eneration with the right mix of home green energy. The adiabatic problems are not significant if the air is run through heat generated from braking ystems to pre-warm the air and invrease its eficiency. Air powered elecric generation can also be sused to preheat the air you just need larger or higher pressure storage tanks.

  2. Rams October 7, 2009 at 8:19 pm

    I am looking to buy about 20-30 plug-in cars which has a capacity of four passengers. The cars are needed here in India. Anyone knows any such cars which can be bought and used ? Please write to me at ramsv@yahoo.com.

  3. myles314 October 2, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    I agree, pneumatic cars are not very useful for every day travel. Just because thses cars don’t release emissions doesn’t mean that they are clean; the compressors and electricity that they use have to be generated usually by fossil fuels. One interesting application is using this type of motor is in bananna warehouses. Since they don’t create CO2 they can drive around in the warehouses without altering the controlled atmosphere inside. Neat concepts but not too useful for our current fossilfueled society.

  4. skierpage October 1, 2009 at 9:30 pm

    Compressing air to store in the tank heats it up; as the tank cools the energy is lost. Later as air expands in the air motor it cools and loses energy. Solving thermodynamic facts with coolers and heat exchangers is hard engineering, one reason why you can’t buy an air car.

    Recovering energy by compressing air when braking is more plausible, especially for big trucks doing a lot of starting and stopping. For five years truck makers have been developing hydraulic hybrids, but you can’t buy them either. Meanwhile batteries (though heavy and expensive) plus electric motor are the most efficient means to store energy, recover kinetic energy, and turn it into motion.

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