Compressed air from the tanks will run directly to the engine under speeds of 35 miles per hour. That means that under 35 mph the car qualifies as a zero emissions vehicle. At higher speeds the engine will burn a small amount of fuel to create more compressed air, sort of like how a plug-in hybrid like the Chevy Volt produces on-the-fly electricity. The hybrid air-car setup should be able use any number of fuels, including gasoline, propane, or ethanol.
1 tank of air + 8 gallons of gas = 848 mile range
The car’s compressed air tank can be refilled in about 3 minutes from a service station. To fill it up at home the car would be plugged in, where an onboard compressor would refill the tank in about 4 hours, at an electrical cost of about $2.
If you aren’t sure whether turning electricity into compressed air is really that clean, here are some numbers: at speeds over 35 mph the air car emits about half the CO2 per mile as a 2007 Toyota Prius (0.141lbs of CO2 per mile, while that the Toyota Prius emits 0.34 lbs of CO2 per mile).
Will we actually see a US-model Air Car in 2009/10?
New York startup ZPM, like Tata motors, has licensed technology from Luxembourg-based MDI. MDI also has plans to release these cars in Europe in 2-, 4-, and 6-cylinder models, starting under $15,000.
Despite lightweight construction that could be of concern for passing US safety tests, it appears that air car technology could be available in the US in late 2009. ZPM told PopularMechanics.com earlier this year that it expects to produce the first US model air car at the end of 2009 or early 2010. (Btw, ZPM’s model is also a candidate for the $10 million Automotive X Prize.)
ZPM wants to produce a 6-seater, 75-hp model with a 1000 mile range at 96 mph, all for just $17,800.
The big question I think we all have is: will this car make it through US safety testing? ZPM’s website says that air car models will meet the same safety specifications of all cars driven in the US. As with most of these new hyper-efficient models we’ve seen (like Aptera’s Typ1 or VW’s 1L Car), ZPM claims the vehicle’s “tubular body provides increased resistance in the event of a crash.” The car will also come with Air Bags and ABS braking.
It’s another case of wait-and see, and we can only hope ZPM follows through.
For more info, check out a great youtube video about air cars (embedded below):
Posts Related to the Air Car and Hybrid Vehicles:
- The World’s Most Fuel Efficient Car: 285 MPG, Not A Hybrid
- Aptera’s $26000 Electric Car and 300 MPG Hybrid Coming Soon
- The Cleanest Cars on Earth?: Honda Civic GX and Other Natural Gas Vehicles
- Affordable Electric Cars Coming to US in 2009
- An Electric Car You Can Buy Today: The $20K TRIAC EV
Photo Credit: Zero Pollution Motors