Compressed Air Car

Could compressed air become the alternative energy solution of the future?

With soaring gas prices and almost everybody wanting to go green these days, the compressed air car might be the best solution for solving pollution and avoiding high fuel costs. With production said to begin in 2008, the next generation of alternative fuel vehicles is now being born. Popular Mechanics Magazine has praised this vision of new cars as being the true fuel efficient car of tomorrow. With zero emissions from the tailpipe, without using hydrogen fuel or batteries, this new vehicle is truly one of a kind. Here is some more information about the compressed air car.

The Idea

Though the idea may seem revolutionary, the prototypes have been around since the 1920's. Compressed air has been used with torpedo propulsion for many years. Zero Pollution Motors is the French company behind the car. They intend to manufacture 10,000 of the vehicles the first year alone. They expect to sell the cars for approximately $17,800. These cars will have 75 horsepowers and will comfortably have room for six passengers. The car will be able to travel approximately 1,000 miles on one fill-up, at a maximum sustained speed of about 96 miles per hour. Unlike hybrid vehicle emissions, which can be significant over time, using compressed air eliminates all emissions.

The Motor

Though there are many advantages and disadvantages of biofuels, the motor of this car is powered by the compressed air, hence the name. The pistons are driven by the expansion of compressed air, rather than mixing the fuel into the air and burning the fuel to drive the pistons. The car can be entirely powered by compressed air, or powered with a combination of air and other fuels as hybrids are. Diesel, ethanol, and gasoline can be used in conjunction with compressed air. The car can also use regenerative braking as a fuel source.

Safety

Cars powered by hydrogen can become quite dangerous when they are involved in high impact collisions. For this reason, air is a much safer alternative, mainly because it is not flammable. The carbon fiber which will hold the compressed air will create no shrapnel.

Advantages of Compressed Air Car

  • Refueling can occur at home using an air compressor or at local service stations.
  • No pollutants are emitted.
  • The weight of the vehicle is greatly reduced. Many conventional components of the motor are not required.
  • Compressed air engines can greatly reduce the cost of producing these vehicles by approximately 20 percent. This is because there is no necessity to build many components, such as axles, transmissions, starter motor, mufflers, spark plugs, or cooling systems. This reduced manufacturing cost can then be passed on to the consumer.
  • There is no need for hazardous materials in these cars, such as gasoline or acids.
  • Lighter cars would cause less damage on roads.

Disadvantages

  • Energy is lost when the electrical energy gets converted into compressed air.
  • The air cools drastically when it is expanded in the engine. This could make the car susceptible to icing.
  • Though service stations may have special equipment to refuel the compressed air container in about three minutes, this might take considerably longer to do at home. It might take up to four hours.
  • The weight and price of many safety features such as airbags and ABS may lead manufacturers not to include them. In addition, the low rolling resistance tires do not grip the roads as well as regular tires.

A Final Note

The compressed air car is the most promising alternative energy vehicle in the foreseeable future because it has zero emissions. There are many manufacturers currently working on models, and the exact success of this new car is yet to be determined. The affordable cost, rising fuel prices, and the growing desire to reduce emissions has certainly spawned great interest and desire in this new car. Only time will tell if the idea really takes off and compressed air becomes the fuel efficient and low pollution solution the world has been waiting for.

Compressed Air Car