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100-MPG Air-Powered Car Headed To US Next Year

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the x-prize-fodder dept.

Transportation 449

An anonymous reader sends us to Popular Mechanics for word on a New York automaker with plans to introduce a US version of the air-powered car, with which India's Tata Motors made a splash last year. Zero Pollution Motors plans a sub-$18,000, 6-passenger vehicle that can hit 96 mph and gets over 100 MPG, using an untried dual engine — the air-powered motor being supplemented by a second (unspecified) engine that would kick in above 35 MPH. The company estimates that "a vehicle with one tank of air and, say, 8 gallons of either conventional petrol, ethanol, or biofuel could hit between 800 and 1000 miles." The vehicle could be introduced to the market as early as 2009.

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449 comments

But.. (4, Funny)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515464)

What happens when we run out of air!??!??

Easy (5, Funny)

TheMadcapZ (868196) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515502)

We steal it from Druidia. Better get working on Mega-Maid.

Re:Easy (5, Interesting)

electrictroy (912290) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515620)

I've already got a car that gets close to that:
- Honda Insight - 80-90 mpg in real world I-95 driving (mine)

Volkswagen is also building a car that will get 240mpg, although it's only a two-seater. It will arrive late 2009 (europe), and hopefully hit the U.S. sometime shortly after.

Re:Easy (4, Funny)

Sporkinum (655143) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515770)

In India, a Honda Insight is a 6 passenger vehicle.

Re:Easy (4, Interesting)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516100)

I had a car which got 85mpg a few years ago - the Citroën AX 1.5D - which, unlike the Honda Insight, could actually take four adults and some shopping (although the two adults in the back had to be fairly small). It probably wasn't quite as safe in a crash as an Insight, but had the advantage that pedestrians and cyclists would hear you coming.

Re:Easy (4, Funny)

Foobar of Borg (690622) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515868)

Better get working on Mega-Maid
Well, I heard that the "recharge" and "drive" settings for the air car will be labelled "suck" and "blow", respectively.

Re:But.. (1)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515514)

Then you can always pick up some helium done at your local balloon shop. Watch out for those teenagers siphoning off your tank while you're parked at the mall so that they can make funny voices.

Answer: Mega Maid (4, Funny)

45mm (970995) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515526)

Ape 1: SPACEBALLS?!

Ape 2: Oh shit ... there goes the planet ...

Re:But.. (1)

MHaz (979244) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515568)

Just bring along a politician or lawyer & put a suction cup on their mouth - then you'll never run out of (hot) air. Plus, it's just like having the regular vs. premium option: the politician's the cheap fuel, the lawyer's the expensive premium...

Re:But.. (1)

Rik Sweeney (471717) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515598)

What happens when we run out of air!??!??

It comes with an emergency air supply in the form of a very hot curry and 4 tins of baked beans.

Re:But.. (5, Funny)

eln (21727) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515688)

I would have thought the emergency Air Supply would be provided via a recording of "All Out of Love", but I guess that might make it more desirable just to stay stranded by the side of the road rather than trying to use it.

Re:But.. (1)

thrillseeker (518224) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515796)

If you had to listen to that every time then you have to play Stop the Tears pretty soon

Re:But.. (1)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516064)

Your car only plays that song when your GPS gives you the Sound of Silence after you express your true feelings of devotion.

Re:But.. (1)

JamesP (688957) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515860)

I guess it works with Wind as well...

Re:But.. (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516038)

Only if the forces involved are powerful enough. Tikka Masala and Millers just ain't going to cut it - we're talking Jalfrezi and Guinness strength here.

I'm skeptical (4, Interesting)

jandrese (485) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515478)

Those are some rather extravagant claims for a technology that appears to be about half thought out (what if we put an engine of some kind on an air car!). My gut reaction is that they pulled that MPG number and top speed straight out of their ass.

Re:I'm skeptical (4, Insightful)

PrescriptionWarning (932687) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515518)

"My gut reaction is that they pulled that MPG number and top speed straight out of their ass."

almost without a doubt they may have exaggerated quite a bit, but the concept seems kinda solid, maybe similar to how a Turbo or SuperCharger works, only rather than increasing the acceleration, the energy goes toward fuel economy.

Re:I'm skeptical (2, Insightful)

thegnu (557446) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515608)

Say we halve what they claim for most practical uses (city driving), you still have 400-500 miles per 8 gallons, or 50mpg. Pretty goddamn good for a 6-passenger vehicle.

Re:I'm skeptical (5, Funny)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516028)

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Re:I'm skeptical (3, Informative)

Raistlin77 (754120) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515616)

"I want to stress that these are estimates, and that we'll know soon more precisely from our engineers," ZPM spokesman Kevin Haydon told PM, "but a vehicle with one tank of air and, say, 8 gal. of either conventional petrol, ethanol or biofuel could hit between 800 and 1000 miles."

Re:I'm skeptical -- ZPM power? (1)

n76lima (455808) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516010)

"ZPM spokesman Kevin Haydon told PM"
That's IT! They are using ZPM's for power!

What? You don't watch Stargate-Atlantis?
  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zero_Point_Module [wikipedia.org]

--
Sig: A model airplane company in Iowa

Re:I'm skeptical (1)

PingPongBoy (303994) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516014)

one tank of air and, say, 8 gal. of either conventional petrol, ethanol or biofuel could hit between 800 and 1000 miles

Mathematically it's at least 100 MPG, but that's assuming the air is free.

If the air isn't free, then a rating like miles per $ would be more informative.

Air could be compressed with the energy used in braking. The scary thing about compressed air is what could happen in an accident. Lugging around an explosion-proof thick walled vehicle might negate the fuel savings. Trains are heavy and run on metal rails--perhaps we should have the option for rails instead of asphalt.

Re:I'm skeptical (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22515618)

You're right to be skeptical. Air powered cars with similar figures were shown on Beyond 2000 (back in the early 1980s) with similar claims

Every time they go into the real world for use, they turn out being little more efficient than a really good all-fuel car.

Air costs energy to compress. Not an insignificant amount. Not worse than fuels in the whole scheme of using it for air powered cars, admittedly, but in the real world, again, little different. You end up with similar efficiency as fuel power in the end with all the defects of an air powered car.

For inner city pollution saving, they'd be the bomb.

Re:I'm skeptical (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515754)

For inner city pollution saving, they'd be the bomb.
Damnit man, now you've probably just made these cars illegal under the patriot act.

Re:I'm skeptical (1)

Sczi (1030288) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515790)

For inner city pollution saving, they'd be the bomb.

How about the noise pollution from 100 air compressors running in the parking lot?

I'm still waiting for the 100% electrics that you plug in when you get home and/or plug in when you get to work, and the electricity comes from a nice clean nuclear plant. Actually, that's a lie.. I'm waiting for 35g's to get a new subaru sti wagon.. vrroooom. But I can't wait for everybody else to get their electric cars!

Re:I'm skeptical (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515956)

Come for a ride in my Tesla Roadster when it get it. They already have people taking delivery =) I just have to wait a year for mine (2009 waitlist).

Re:I'm skeptical (1)

vtscott (1089271) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515624)

I have to agree that they've pulled a lot of this out of their asses. From the article:

"I want to stress that these are estimates, and that we'll know soon more precisely from our engineers," ZPM spokesman Kevin Haydon told PM, "but a vehicle with one tank of air and, say, 8 gal. of either conventional petrol, ethanol or biofuel could hit between 800 and 1000 miles."

So who knows what numbers they'll come up with eventually. Also, saying it gets 100mpg is very misleading since that doesn't account for the energy that must go into compressing the air. Sure the car can go up to 1000 miles on 8 gallons of gas (if they are even close in their estimates), but that gas isn't providing all the energy necessary to propel the car.

Re:I'm skeptical (1)

Raistlin77 (754120) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515764)

Also, saying it gets 100mpg is very misleading since that doesn't account for the energy that must go into compressing the air. Sure the car can go up to 1000 miles on 8 gallons of gas (if they are even close in their estimates), but that gas isn't providing all the energy necessary to propel the car.


Oh, so the MPG that my regular gasoline vehicle is rated at accounts for the energy expended processing, transporting, and pumping the gasoline I put in my vehicle as well? This is not about reducing the cost to provide/obtain the fuel, it is about reducing the consumer's usage of the fuel. Besides, surely it takes significantly less energy to compress a tank of air, which can be done on-site, than it costs to process, transport, and pump the additional 5-18 gallons of gasoline that typical cars require.

Re:I'm skeptical (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22515714)

Yea, pretty much:

""I want to stress that these are estimates, and that we'll know soon more precisely from our engineers," ZPM spokesman Kevin Haydon told PM, "

I'd also like to know if the energy used to run the compressor to fill up the tank was included in that MPG figure. My guess is no.

And another pet peeve - they call themselves "Zero Pollution Motors (ZPM)", other places talk about "sero emmision vehicles [ucsusa.org] . Bullshit. The pollution may happen somewhere other then the tailpipe, but it's still there. And often at a higher environmental cost then if you just burned gas in a modern, high efficiency vehicle. It may move the pollution out of the urban area. If that's you're goal, fine - state it as such. But it's not a solution to the larger pollution and energy problems - and may actually exacerbate them.

Re:I'm skeptical (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515930)

You only really need electricity to run a compressor though, and we already have networks in place for that. You need trucks to get gas to a gas station. If we replaced all cars with compressed air or electric only models for example, we'd end up with a lot less pollution, especially if the electricity is being generated through renewable means.

All very idealistic I know, but you have to consider the current infrastructure before bashing any ideas for an infrastructure that could very well be more efficient and less polluting.

Re:I'm skeptical (1)

Itchyeyes (908311) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515932)

It seems to me that the key problem with his statement is the assumption that the tank of air just appears from nowhere. How large is this tank an how highly is it compressed? How much energy does it take to compress that air? He's just cutting half of his energy out of the equation to arrive at the 10mpg figure.

Re:I'm skeptical (1)

moosesocks (264553) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516060)

Although I agree that the numbers might be heavily inflated, the underlying concept is intriguing, as it completely steps around the limitations of current battery technology for producing hybrids and "zero-emission" vehicles.

Air compressors have been around forever, are extremely reliable, and can be manufactured very inexpensively using low-tech materials and methods. If you wanted to get clever, you could even divert some of the torque from the secondary engine to refill the air tanks, and ensure that the "idle" torque of the engine isn't wasted when you take your foot off of the accelerator (you could use some sort of Continuously-Variable transmission to achieve this, which is also convenient given that CVTs are enjoying somewhat of a renaissance at the moment).

Until batteries get *much* better, I'd put my money on compressed air and flywheels as being the most viable "next-gen" energy storage mechanism for vehicles. Also, at $18,000 these things could potentially sell in massive quantities.

Re:I'm skeptical (1)

osgeek (239988) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516098)

The really curious thing is why anyone reads Popular Mechanics as though it has anything to do with real mechanical things. Popular Mechanics is to machines as popular music is to music, Popular Science is to science, and the Enquirer is to news in general.

I just want to know (3, Insightful)

RandoX (828285) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515480)

How much does a gallon of air cost?

Re:I just want to know (5, Funny)

hal2814 (725639) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515546)

It depends on where you're at.

I was over at Spaceball City the other day and a gallon of Schweppe's Air was $4! Spaceballs: The Air was even more expensive at $5. They had some cheap off brand air for $2.50 but you never know what you get with the generic stuff.

On Mars, there's just an outright tax on air that everyone pays. It's like 15% of your income but there are expemtions for midgets and girls with 3 hooters.

Re:I just want to know (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515784)

You think that's expensive? Perri-air is like $15 a tin!

Re:I just want to know (1)

bcwright (871193) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515750)

I think this was intended to be funny, but it's actually a good question. How much pressure in the tank do you need for this to work, and how many Kg of air do you need in there to keep it going for a significant distance? Does it come with an air compressor that you can plug in when you have access to an electrical outlet, or do you have to look for some place that has a powerful enough compressor to fill the tank?

The bottom line is how many $/mile this thing costs to operate, not just the cost of refilling the tank but also the maintenance costs. If that isn't too high, it does seem like a good idea for areas plagued with auto exhaust pollution, which would include many big cities around the world. It's hard to tell from the description if the total life cycle of this technology is more or less energy-efficient than conventional engines, especially given that I suspect it would require a high level of maintenance to keep everything airtight.

Interesting concept (4, Interesting)

KublaiKhan (522918) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515484)

A bit different than the usual 'hybrid' gas/electric design.

I'd like to know how the air tank would be refilled, though. I mean, gas stations already have air compressors for your tires, but would that put out enough pressure to fill the tank in your car?

Or will this strictly be an 'around town' sort of car, and you'd have to rent something for long trips?

Re:Interesting concept (3, Informative)

NewAndFresh (1238204) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515876)

Not sure about this one, but of one (air only) version:

It will take only a few minutes for the CityCAT to refuel at gas stations equipped with custom air compressor units; MDI says it should cost around $2 to fill the car's carbon-fiber tanks with 340 liters of air at 4350 psi. Drivers also will be able to plug into the electrical grid and use the car's built-in compressor to refill the tanks in about 4 hours.
I wonder how much those custom air compressors cost?

Re:Interesting concept (1)

KublaiKhan (522918) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515996)

Or exactly how 'custom' we're talking--is it just a high-capacity air compressor with a special connector, or is this something other than what you could get from the usual compressed-air suppliers?

That being said, I -really- like this idea, and I'm hoping that it pans out in a practical manner. $2/fillup is a very attractive notion. I'm sick of having to pay for gas.

Re:Interesting concept (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22515916)

If you think about it, one of the engines should have a built in Air compressor to recharge the air tank therefore increasing the amount of mileage you would get. Otherwise a secondary method of filling the tank, other than the $.75-$1.00 at the gas station, would be to put a bicycle tire pump in the trunk or provide yourself with an electric air pump. Or you could use a politician giving a speech, they're always full of hot air.

Re:Interesting concept (1)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515984)

I mean, gas stations already have air compressors for your tires, but would that put out enough pressure to fill the tank in your car?

Most gas stations here in Springfield don't even put out anough pressure to fill my tires! The tires take 45 PSI and the most I can get from the compressors is 30 PSI and have to pay $.75 for it. In fact, there's only one gas station in town I know of with an old fashioned compresser (and it's free!) that will properly inflate my tires. It's the Shell station on MacArthur. I go out of my way to buy gas there just because they still have air.

The whole concept of an air powered car sounds stupid to me. The only reasons would be reduced transportation costs and reduced pollution, but the energy required to compress the air would doubtlessly cost more than running the car on gasoline, as well as emitting more toxins and greenhouse gasses.

Re:Interesting concept (2, Interesting)

KublaiKhan (522918) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516096)

Not necessarily--and given that most air compressors run off of electricity, this allows the use of renewable sources without much difficulty.

It's essentially, if you think about it, an electric car without having the electricity onboard.

simple (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22515506)

For an additional $5000 the car comes equipped with a politician and a special adapter to route all the hot air into the tank.

Re:simple - rip off (2, Funny)

MadCow42 (243108) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515726)

>>For an additional $5000 the car comes equipped with a politician and a special adapter to route all the hot air into the tank.

That's a rip off - around here, you can buy a politician for a lot less than $5000. :)

MadCow.

Ugh (0, Flamebait)

Eddy Luten (1166889) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515508)

Why do they have to make the friendly cars so damn ugly?

Re:Ugh (3, Interesting)

Midnight Thunder (17205) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515902)

Why do they have to make the friendly cars so damn ugly?

Maybe because they aren't really giving high priority to the market or feel that the "environmental hippies care more about function than looks". Truth is, the there is a growing market of "environmental hippies" that have both money and sense of style. Maybe its time they took some of their industrial designers off their 10 tonne Enviro Pollution Vehicles and actually applying them to making environmentally friends vehicles which look good.

In short: yup, I agree with you :)

Rental (3, Interesting)

bigattichouse (527527) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515516)

I think the only way they'd get past the "burp-car" or "fart-car" stigma would be to start offering them as rental cars - let people drive them around a lot. Then they might have a market. (Unless they just come in at $2500 - then they'll sell a billion of them)

100-MPG Air-Powered Car Headed To US Next Year (1)

ionix5891 (1228718) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515522)

did you mean "100-MPG Hot Air-Powered Car Headed To US Next Year"

"Zero Pollution"? (5, Informative)

johndiii (229824) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515532)

Probably no such thing. At the very least, there is waste heat from the mechanical processes of the automobile. The energy require to accelerate a vehicle to a certain speed will be roughly the same, regardless of the source. In the case of the "air-powered car", the energy used to compress the air could come from a coal-fired power plant. Is that better than burning gasoline? I don't know, and I would be very interested to see a comprehensive analysis.

In considering the environmental impact of a particular vehicle, there are a number of factors to consider:
  • How the energy is obtained in the first place. From petroleum drilled out of the ground, a coal mine, natural gas, solar power, nuclear power, and so on.
  • The efficiency of conveying the energy from the source to the user. Coal and petroleum products are relatively good for this (some loss to evaporation for gasoline, I imagine). For remotely-generated electricity, there would be transmission losses. If you charge your electric car from a solar panel on your roof, much less so.
  • How the energy is stored (or storage losses). This is one of the big issues with hydrogen. It tends to seep through containers. Compressed air would be a similar problem. A leak in your compressed air tank has an environmental effect just as a lead in your gas tank, and is harder to detect. It's more efficent to store a liquid than a compressed gas.
  • The efficiency of converting the stored energy into motion of the vehicle. What are the thermal losses for state changes? Friction in the engine?

There are probably more factors, some very difficult to isolate. And there are safety factors - gasoline is flammable, but easy to detect if it starts to leak. Hydrogen, on the other hand, you would not notice at all until your car decided to emulate the Hindenberg. :-)

Zero pollution is a good goal, but unless all of the factors are considered, it's just marketing hype.

Re:"Zero Pollution"? (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515628)

Also the amount of atomized hydrocarbons in the air coming out of the "tailpipe" will be high. you cant run a compressor an air motor without lubrication and you will get atomization of that lubrication and it will exit the vehicle in the exhaust air.

You can use cooking oil for lubrication but synthetic oils would be better. problem is we dont know the health aspects of aspiration of atomized synthetic oils as they really have not done tests on that yet.

Re:"Zero Pollution"? (1)

KublaiKhan (522918) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515720)

If you use cooking oils for lubricants, you can just park your compressor next to the local Burger Lord. Do it like lawnmower fuel, and have the fuel and lubricant pre-mixed before you put it in the tank.

Re:"Zero Pollution"? (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515798)

you could if you designed the tank to have a outlet at the bottom to siphon the oil and inject it into the motor. it's easier to have a separate tank that injects the lubricant into the system. Just like how air tool systems work in almost all large factories and facilities.

Re:"Zero Pollution"? (1)

KublaiKhan (522918) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515858)

I was referring more to the aerosol of grease that surrounds chain burger joints... ;-p

Re:"Zero Pollution"? (1)

Rob Riggs (6418) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515824)

you cant run a compressor an air motor without lubrication and you will get atomization of that lubrication and it will exit the vehicle in the exhaust air.

How much? I'm a sport diver and I've never tasted lubricant in the compressed air.

problem is we dont know the health aspects of aspiration of atomized synthetic oils as they really have not done tests on that yet.

If your concerns are founded, it wouldn't be hard to find test subjects. You'll find a reasonably sized population of professional divers have been "sucking tailpipes" on which to test.

Re:"Zero Pollution"? (1)

thegnu (557446) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515690)

Dude, it's the name of the company. Of COURSE it's marketing hype. Should they call their company "Relatively Very Low-Pollution Motors"?

Then, you'll have the engineering geeks getting on your ass about the fact that it's actually an engine, not a motor. So "Relatively Very Low-Pollution Engines"? Thank god we got that straightened out.
[/jerk]
but I do agree with your point. People should consider this more often. Like pollution-motivated vegetarians who eat goji berries from halfway around the world.

Re:"Zero Pollution"? (2, Insightful)

Dusty00 (1106595) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515766)

Large scale power generation such as power plants are significantly more efficient than the small scale of an internal combustion engine. That's the difference. If my car is powered by electricity generated at a power plant, yea there's still pollution but a lot less energy is wasted and hence, less pollution per mile.

Re:"Zero Pollution"? (1)

RingDev (879105) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515828)

Zero pollution is a good goal, but unless all of the factors are considered, it's just marketing hype.
Actually, it's neither. It's the companies name.

'Bear Wiz Beer' does not contain bear urine.
'Zero Pollution' cars produce pollution.

-Rick

Re:"Zero Pollution"? (1)

pizzach (1011925) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515834)

Call me uneducated, but cars running on air sound much less like marketing hype to me than electric cars. 1. Unlike an electric car, you do not have an expensive, heavy battery that you have to figure out how to recycle when it is dead. 2. The internals of the car are likely much simpler than with an electric car. 3. No exploding batterys / hydrogen. This is just compressed air. If there is a hole in the tank, it leak air. The tank is designed to fail gracefully. 4. It's likely much easier to outfit a gas station to dispence air than hydrogen. 5. You can fill it at home if you want.

What would it look like - a balloon? (0, Flamebait)

arizwebfoot (1228544) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515534)

I bet it'll be butt ugly too.

However, what kind of air? Clean air, high oxygenated air, polluted air?

Well, if it meets their claims... (2, Insightful)

brennanw (5761) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515540)

... then I think I'd be willing to buy one. Although I really don't like the way they look. Still, I could suffer through the faux-Jetson design if it's a genuine 100mpg driving experience.

I do dread the inevitable tech support calls, though.

I'd buy one (2, Insightful)

BigJClark (1226554) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515544)


and a litre of your best snake oil, sir!

Great, environmentally friendly cars! (2, Insightful)

apathy maybe (922212) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515548)

Small cars that use little fuel are great. And in cities (where most people drive), it doesn't matter if it only gets a few hundred kilometres (did someone say miles? what are they?), as that is more then enough to get you home again.

As for speed, again, if you are driving in a city, there is no need to drive more then ~60 kilometres an hour (~30 miles an hour I think).

(Of course, I still prefer my (push) bike, bikes are a heck of a lot safer then cars, imagine if everyone had a bike instead of a petrol guzzling car. There would be a lot fewer accidents. Of course, sometimes you need to carry more stuff or more people, simple, just ring up your local car sharing co-op!)

Re:Great, environmentally friendly cars! (2, Interesting)

RightSaidFred99 (874576) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515966)

I don't know what city you're in, but here we have freeways (65-75 mph) and even on the main streets the speed limit is 45mph (so most sane people go 50-55mph).

Re:Great, environmentally friendly cars! (1)

Daniel_Staal (609844) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515980)

You obviously have never been in a developing country. Why would you need a car sharing co-op? Just put it on the back your bike. Get enough straps and it'll fit. The average person isn't likely to ever buy something larger than a refrigerator, and I've seen those on the backs of bikes...

Similarly, one bike can handle five people, with the stuff on the back rack. (A sofa is good. You'll probably want a front rack too.)

Re:Great, environmentally friendly cars! (1)

Chrononium (925164) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516050)

At least in the States, many of our cities have considerable sprawl as compared to compactish cities such as New York (just see Los Angeles). So while it is true that the city streets have ~35-40 mph speed limits, many people live in suburbs and commute into work using freeways/highways. Thus, such a car could still save considerable fuel for the average traveler. I spend about 18 minutes of my 25 minute commute on the freeway.

loud (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515552)

I [ used to } hear they run at 100+ audio decibels.

Zero Pollution Motors (1)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515558)

Governments really need to regulate green washing such as this companies name.

Look at those wheels! (1)

RingDev (879105) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515574)

Those have to be like 8" rims. With tires that small, cruising at 96 MPH would be a bit of a white knuckled experience. Any bump or divet in the road is going to feel like you're hitting a curb in a car that light with that small of wheels. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to see what this vehicle can do in the real world, but 1000 miles @ 96 MPH is either a purely hypothetical calculation, or a Dyno run.

-Rick

vaporware (4, Funny)

metamechanical (545566) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515576)

This gives a new meaning to the word "vaporware" :P

Re:vaporware (3, Funny)

croddy (659025) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515716)

Vaporware? Shit, dogg. We got the vapormobile.

engery to compress? (1)

SoupGuru (723634) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515580)

Everything I've heard so far on the topic of air powered cars leads me to think that compressed air is a pretty bad way to transfer energy. What do we burn to create the energy to compress the air?

Re:engery to compress? (2, Interesting)

plague3106 (71849) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515780)

Well, we could go nuclear. At any rate, having millions of "clean" cars and a few plants to generate power will let us focus on making the plants as clean as possible. Then if fusion ever happens, we can start building those without changing the cars.

Indirection solves yet another problem!

Re:engery to compress? (1)

Phisbut (761268) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515810)

What do we burn to create the energy to compress the air?

Nothing. We use hydroelectricity [wikipedia.org] instead.

Confused (1)

rehtonAesoohC (954490) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515602)

using an untried dual engine


How can they claim the numbers they're claiming without trying out the engine first?

"Using an untried technique of dropping a squirrel into the gas tank, we're able to get 100 MPG on our vehicles."

Uhh...

Re:Confused (1)

BigJClark (1226554) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516088)


Hmm, interesting. I'd like to purchase one of your squirrel-powered cars, and a litre of your finest snake oil, sir!

Pirate Car? (3, Funny)

jetpack (22743) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515610)

FTFS: "The vehicle be introduced to the market"


Arrrrrr, Matey!

Old Tech. (1)

RackinFrackin (152232) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515648)

I had an air-powered car [ilovethe80s.com] years ago! :)

Enhancements (0, Redundant)

arizwebfoot (1228544) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515650)

So, if I eat a lot of hot chili, have my whole family eat a lot of chili, trap the resulting methane gas, and add that to the air tank, would I be able to boost my mph to say 150 mph?

Cattle ranchers could make a huge boon in trapped methane.

Somewhat peurile, but .... (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515680)

OK, I know I'm somewhat immature for my age, but a product called Tata is just one I will never be able to deal with without snickering like a teenage boy.

I will pluralize that sucker and use it all the time. "Oooh, look at the Tatas", "we've done extensive market research, and we're just not sure America is ready for Tatas", "Man crushed under Tatas in garage".

I'm sure I could come up with lots more, but that would deprive someone else from trying.

Cheers

Re:Somewhat peurile, but .... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22516072)

You can't shower with these Tata's though!

Looking Forward to It (4, Insightful)

Phoenix666 (184391) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515700)

We need a paradigm shift in transportation, because it causes so much climate change.

My immediate family is lucky, economically--we live in New York and don't need a car; but that doesn't exempt us from the environmental consequences of the internal combustion engine.

But even environmental consequences aside, the rising cost of oil has put the squeeze on the rest of my family who aren't fortunate enough to live in areas where public transportation is available/reliable/efficient. When you consider the relative share of annual income that they pay for basic transportation versus mine, it's dramatic how high such a fundamental cost of living is in the United States.

So, ask yourself--how competitive can an economy remain when it spends such an out-sized amount on such a basic service? It should be driving the costs of transportation down to the level of a utility and investing the surplus in cutting-edge technologies.

Re:Looking Forward to It (1)

Bryansix (761547) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515894)

We need a paradigm shift in transportation, because buying oil funds global terrorism.
There I fixed that for you.

Energy state conversion (3, Interesting)

Dzimas (547818) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515702)

OK, so you use an electric engine to drive a compressor which then drives the wheels. Or - even worse - you'll use a gasoline engine to compress the air. It's true that you'll get "zero pollution" while driving, but this vehicle is going to use significantly more energy than a vehicle that uses an electric or gasoline engine to drive the wheels directly. And that means *more* pollution, not less. There is a reason that we don't use compressed air to anything larger than toy cars and rockets - it has an incredibly low energy density compared to a tankful of hydrocarbon-based fuel.

This is yet another "clean energy" idea that preys on the naieve.

Gas taxes? (1)

future assassin (639396) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515730)

I would love to be able to buy one of these mini cars for around $2500-3500 but I can't see the US/CDN governments being too happy with them, especially local governments with the loss of money from gas taxes. A few things could happen here with the introduction of these cars. Gas prices will go up for everyone to compensate for lost tax revenue or new non gas taxes will be introduced to compensate for the lost tax revenue from gas. So in the end we will not save that much.

Pressure (4, Insightful)

mikej (84735) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515740)

How heavily compressed is the air in the storage tank, and how rugged will the tank be? Think about the consequences for both cars if this thing gets rear-ended or sideswiped hard enough to rupture the tank...

Re:Pressure (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22516080)

Yeah, compressed air is far more dangerous than a tank full of petrol.

/sarcasm

But What About... (2, Insightful)

MarkAyen (726688) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515752)

TFA is long on hype, but severely lacking in details. And contradictory, or at least misleading. It refers to the Air Car as "gas free", but later states that is uses a "supplemental energy source" for speeds over 35 mph and that it can take "conventional petrol, ethanol or biofuel". Maybe that's not strictly speaking "gas", but until we have a biofuel refueling infrastructure, that means good old pump gas.

There are also a lot of unanswered questions about the pressurized air tanks. How much pressure will the tanks be under? What happens if a tank ruptures? How are the tanks filled? (If you have to fill them between trips, then there will be an energy cost associated with that, probably not an insubstantial one.) How easy are they to service/replace? How much energy is required to manufacture/remediate them?

As with so many other "green" solutions, we may ultimately find that the real energy savings aren't all they're cracked up to be. Don't get me wrong -- I applaud anyone working to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. I just believe we ought to think more critically about what we're buying into.

no, its ALL oil-powered (1)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515762)

Where does the energy to compress the air come from ?

In this house, we obey the laws of Thermodynamics!

Re:no, its ALL oil-powered (1)

kvezach (1199717) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516004)

If you fill the air tank up from an external electric compressor, how about..
from the sun, from falling water, from wind, from fissioning nuclei, or heck, even from coal (which pollutes, but isn't oil).

Ridiculous (1)

chaboud (231590) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515782)

Even on the face of it, putting in 8 gallons of gas + a huge amount of energy and getting back 800 miles does not mean 100 mpg.

If that were the case, a purely electric car that let a thimble of gas evaporate in the back would get 1000s of miles per gallon.

We don't even need to argue about whether this is really going to come anywhere near its claims (it isn't), safe (it isn't), or actually efficient when you consider the energy that it takes to compress air (it isn't).

We can just end at how stupid their claims are and move on.

Cold Weather Friendly? (4, Informative)

jekewa (751500) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515850)

I saw this on the television and thought it looked pretty cool, pun kind of intended.

Arguably one could compress one's own air in the garage with a wind or solar powered compressor and fuel the thing for "free." Certainly that would be an option for some (in windier areas) people and even filling stations. Otherwise, of course, we're just moving the pollution from the streets to the power plants that then have to power all of the compressors.

The thing that kicked the idea for me is that the car seems potentially impractical for those of us that live in temperate regions. For a large part of the year, our vehicles need to generate heat for the passenger compartment. In your typical gas-powered motorized vehicle, this is heat taken from the cooling system. Sure, the old VW Beetle had an electric heater in it, but anybody who had one in sub-zero climates can tell you that they don't always cut it. It's probably the case that the improvements in seat-based heating and technology in general will make the heaters more useful. Perhaps the size of the cabin will help. It also needs to be considered that the light-weight construction of the body may not allow for an awful lot of insulation.

Along the same lines, those tiny wheels wouldn't make it through the snow. A 75HP motor seems like enough to power some larger wheels, but what's the torque like, and how much impact is that larger drive-train gonna have? And once you start adding that bottom weight, how much is that going to force changes in the rest of the car, and will it spiral out of control such that the power plant is no longer sufficient?

In warmer areas, like I'd like to move to, it seems a very practical commuter vehicle. I have to imagine someone has thought of routing the exhaust through a cooling system, allowing the engine to cool the cabin without needing an environmentally unfriendly air conditioner. On good paved roads the tiny wheels might only be a hindrance to top speeds, where larger wheels might be needed for rougher roads, like those with cracks and potholes. (Yeah, I may have a thing against tiny wheels...)

There is also a safety factor. In places where everyone drives small cars, this will fit right in, but in the US, too many SUVs and large sedans compete for the same road as these. It'll probably be the same as with motorcycles; they're safer when you get a bunch of them together than individually ripping through traffic. Once there's a lot of them on the road, this should shift so that the small cars will dominate, and the larger ones will be the exceptions.

Heck, someone should suggest to "reverse" the HOV lanes and force the big vehicles over there, allowing the smaller vehicles to have the other lanes; which could probably be narrowed, and would be less congested as all of the vehicles would be shorter and everyone would be closer to their destination by the time the traffic jam started .

Is it really cheaper? (3, Interesting)

Iberian (533067) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515888)

Say instead we took the same car and replaced the engine with a small 1.2 litre diesel. Now calculating in the cost of the compressed air and comparing it to the cost of diesel to go 1000 miles which is cheaper?

May even debate which is greener considering that the compressed air didn't jump in the tank itself

Has anyone ever seen this thing? Vaporware? (3, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515912)

Is there a drivable prototype of this thing? Has anyone from Motor Trend or Auto Week ever had a good look at it? For any real car, the prototypes precede volume production by several years.

Accusations of fraud are flying between the Air Car people. [theaircar.com] . Apparently there are two Air Car groups, and they don't get along.

Tata Motors has nothing on their web site about the "air car". They do have a page of their concept cars [tatacarsworldwide.com] , and the Air Car isn't on there. They're coming out with the Tata Nano, at $2500. The Tata Nano is conventionally powered. There's an electric version of the Tata Ace mini-truck [autoblog.com] , and those should be coming to the US this year. But there is no Air Car or "City Cat" from Tata that I can find.

This looks like vaporware.

in related news (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515914)

-whoopie cushion accessory sold separately

-refried beans encouraged for every meal in order to foster alternative energy adoption

-beano announced as an enemy of energy responsibility

Danger, Will Robinson (4, Interesting)

RealProgrammer (723725) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515924)

I think Spielberg built a huge PR hill to climb for the litigious American market. Ever see Jaws [kwc.org] ? As Mythbusters showed, in the extremely unlikely event that an air tank ruptured, it would typically expirate rather explode. It would be difficult indeed to make the tank explode, but that's the image I have.

A twist on that by which the energy industry could rake in profit is by declaring it unsafe to use compressed air. Instead only compressed CO2 or Nitrogen should be used, to avoid fire hazard.

O'course, that kind of undermines efficiency for braking, which should best be done by compressing air. Maybe they could use two tanks and use the difference in potential (pressure) between the two in a closed system.

i met an indian woman (3, Funny)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 6 years ago | (#22515962)

and told her that i liked her tatas

she slapped me

why does she hate fuel economy?

And the spokesperson... (1)

hanakj (164293) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516024)

...Could be Elvis Costello!

Tesla and big 3 (0, Redundant)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516036)

Personally, I am far more interested in what Musk is up to. He is trying to work with the big 3 to get a low cost electric car out the door by 2010. This would be something that is in the range of $20-30K, and with a similar distance to the roadster of 200 miles (very doubtful that it would have the workmanship or the performance of the white star, let alone the roadster). To me, any one of these would be worth it.

More Important Questions (1)

VorpalRodent (964940) | more than 6 years ago | (#22516092)

But, more importantly: Can it fly?
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