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The Amazing Compressed Air Car

Updated on March 1, 2012

Compressed Air Car - Coming Soon to a Dealer Near You?

They emit zero pollution, get over 100 mpg, and have a range of more than 800 miles. Could cars that run on compressed air be the future of clean transportation?

(Photo credit: Zero Pollution Motors)

Guy Negre is a former Formula One motor racing engineer who has turned his attention to building clean cars. The Frenchman is the father of the Air Car, a car that runs on compressed air and could revolutionize the auto industry.

If a car that runs on air sounds like a pipe dream that could never reach mass production, think again. In India, Tata Motors has already signed an agreement to begin building the cars, and pre-production begins in 2008. In the U.S., Zero Pollution Motors has an agreement to build the Air Car. ZPM will start taking orders in 2008 for delivery of cars in 2010. According to the ZPM website, the US version of the car will have a maximum speed of 96 mph, a range of 848 miles, and get the equivalent of 106 mpg. Zero Pollution Motors currently estimates the car will sell for $17,800.

If it lives up to its promise, the car could become popular with anyone looking for better fuel mileage and less pollution. Since the Air Car runs on compressed air stored in tanks like scuba divers use, it emits only air at speeds less than 35 mph. And the air expelled from the tail pipe is actually cleaner than the air used to fill the tank, according to the ZPM website. "This is because before compression, the air is run through carbon filters to eliminate dirt, dust, humidity, and other urban air impurities that could hamper the engine's performance," the site says.

At speeds over 35 mph, the car will use small amounts of fuel, but ZPM says the car will still emit "only 0.141lbs of CO2 per mile. That is up to 4 times less than the average vehicle and more than two times less than the cleanest vehicle available today."

Photo credit: MDI

Best Invention of 2007

TIME Magazine named the Air Car one of the

best inventions of 2007.

Air Car History

Vehicles that run on compressed air aren't actually a new idea.

A car that runs on compressed air sounds like it could only have been invented in the eco-conscious 21st century, but the history of compressed air vehicles dates back to the 19th century. It's just taken us awhile to "rediscover" this clean technology. Here's a quick timeline showing some important moments in air car technology.

1870s - Mekarski compressed air locomotive invented

1898 - Hoadley and Knight compressed air locomotive invented with a two-stage air engine that offered a greater range

1896 - Charles B. Hodges created an air car that was commercially successful; hundreds were sold to the mining industry

1912 - European three-stage air locomotive improved upon Hodges' design and were widely used in mines in Germany, Belgium and France

1979 - Terry Miller built and patented Air Car One for a cost of $1500

2002 - MDI Air Car publicly unveiled in South Africa

2007 - Tata Motors of India announced agreement with MDI to produce air cars in India

2008 - Zero Pollution Motors in the US plans to begin taking orders for a US Air Car for delivery in 2010

Interview with Air Car Inventor Guy Negre

BBC Video on Compressed Air Car - BBC News highlights the Air Car


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