Pump my ride!

Tata, India’s largest automaker has started production on the world’s first commercial air-powered vehicle. Some 6000 zero-emissions Air Cars are scheduled to hit Indian streets in August of 2008. The move is to be welcomed because threatens the hegemony of big oil companies and oil producing nations. It may also do something to reduce pollution in big cities. The US will see an air car next year if the Scuderi Group in Massachusetts is successful. It has raised about $15 million from friends and family and is pushing ahead “in spite of being laughed at by large investment banks at first,” said President Sal Scuderi.

“Here’s a tiny firm saying we’re going to change the internal combustion engine,” he said. “After positive evaluation reports there are many less skeptics now; we’re kicking off a $50 million fundraiser and Bosch Engineering has signed on as a development partner.”


The Air Car should be surprisingly practical. The $12,700 CityCAT, one of a handful of planned Air Car models, can hit 68 mph and has a range of 125 miles,adequate for cities. It will take only a few minutes for the CityCAT to refuel at gas stations (or anywhere else) equipped with custom air compressor units. It should cost around $2 to fill the car’s carbon-fiber tanks with 340 liters of air at 4350 psi.

The Air Car, developed by ex-Formula One engineer Guy N’gre 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.

Of course, the Air Car will likely never hit American shores, especially considering its all-glue construction. But that doesn’t mean the major automakers 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.

You might think this car could be the answer to air pollution and the need for energy security. For city driving, a 125 mile range should easily outdo any electric cars on the horizon. But there is little agreement on that – Wikipedia quotes sources saying that the “compressed air car” is about 1/3 as efficient as an electric car. The pollution created by burning fossil fuels to generate electricity to compress the air is more than a conventional gasoline engine. It’s not a solution, say critics, but a novelty.

3 Responses

  1. As of April 2009, we are still waiting for the e.Volution air car announced by MDI and Zero Pollution Motors in South Africa, with sales to start in 2001.

    Still waiting for the 2003 announced production, and the 2004 Eolo car in Italy by MDI. And …… just about every year MDI makes a big announcement, gets lots of publicity and says “production will be next year”.

    The car of this article has been put on hold and replaced by a smaller car. When the time for that car to be produced came in late 2008, MDI just ignored it and announced a new car, the tiny AirPod, that would go into production in 2009.

    No cars have ever been delivered, but MDI is still selling franchises, licenses and taking investment money.

    Nick Rosen (#2, above). MDI has NEVER EVER delivered a single car.

    They have never let an independent journalist ever road test any of the many prototypes you see in videos, going around their parking lot at slow speed.

    The apparent problem is that the operating range is just a few miles. The only test MDI published showed their prototype running out of air after 7.22km === less than 5 miles.

  2. I have been reading about air cars for some time now..
    I thought they were suppose to go on sale in south africa in the year 2000, but as yet i cannot find where anyone has driven or tested one ..
    i do read a lot of stories about them.. but is it just hype?

    is there a big scam going on.. looking for investors for a nonexistant product..?

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