India's largest automaker is set to start producing the world's first commercial air-powered vehicle. The Air Car, developed by ex-Formula One engineer Guy Nègre 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. Some 6000 zero-emissions Air Cars are scheduled to hit Indian streets in August of 2008.
Barring any last-minute design changes on the way to production, 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. 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.
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