Friday, March 21, 2008

The Air Car

Some people might file this in the "Well, Now I've Seen Everything" file but I hope that, by the end of this post, you'll realize the folly in doing so.

First, what the heck am I talking about? I'll let the slightly misleadingly titled manufacturer of this vehicle explain:

If you can, imagine a vehicle that runs on air, achieves over 100 gas-equivalent mpg and over 90 mph, has zero to low C02 emissions, seats six, has plenty of space for luggage, cuts no safety corners, and costs no more than an average economy to mid-size vehicle. This is the expected performance of the revolutionary compressed air vehicle that Zero Pollution Motors (ZPM) is introducing to North America. The vehicle is powered by the Compressed Air Engine (CAE) developed by Motor Development International (MDI), a 15-year old company based in Nice, France, and headed by inventor and Formula One race car engineer, Guy Negre. ZPM is the exclusive representative for MDI in the United States.

Plainly put, that's precisely what we need around these parts. It addresses safety, performance, space, and cost. Looks are relative but I like it:

...especially the truck version:

I am obliged to point out the fact that, while it is great to have a car that does not pollute the air with it's actual motion, movement is not free. Energy to propel things comes from somewhere so whether it is combusting high-energy petroleum-based fuel in a confined space or it's using stored electrons to affect electro-magnetic fields, the energy comes from somewhere. In this case, that somewhere is simply an air compressor at your house/gas station that has to be powered somehow.

That being said, this little car, in a VERY creative way, addresses a lot of the problems we face with personal transportation. First, since compressed air is easy to come by and can be created a number of different ways, it is a fantastic decentralized solution. Anywhere that power can be found, an air compressor can exist. It's not directly addressing our global issue with energy but it is definitely an "open-source," "socialistic" solution (meaning that the power to power these cars is not concentrated geographically or politically).

Second, these little cars will stay nice and clean. The engine bay won't get gunked up, no batteries to leak, just air in, air out.

Third, compressed air is certainly less dangerous than compressed hydrogen or non-compressed gasoline, diesel, or ethanol.

Fourth, it's just innovative! What a great idea it is to power cars this way. I mean, what a great excuse for uber-handy men and women to score an air compressor. Let me tell you, between power-washing the car (using less water in the process), popping bolts off my wheels, and power-dusting the storage unit, I could definitely use a little air power in my life. I'm not kidding, I'd love an excuse to have an air compressor and any mechanically inclined human being should feel the same way.

Inhabitat weighs in on this one:
Reservations for the Air Car will begin early this year, and we are sure that interest in the vehicle will run quite high. While there will be different models around, the company is really focusing its efforts on bringing a six-seat modified version of the CityCAT. This new CityCAT version will not only come with more space, but will also come with a more radical version of the MDI engine, that, according to ZPM, will achieve a top speed of up to 96 miles per hour and a stunning 1000 miles travel distance.

EcoGeek does as well:
MDI has developed a way for the car to get a range of over 800 miles! A small petrol engine heats the air, providing the extra energy necessary to get the car up to 95 MPH and more than triples the vehicle's range. So, indeed, you will have to fill up both a gasoline tank and an air tank to get the car to work.

Thumbs up from me! So many options to consider when I get around to buying a new car...

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