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Compressed Air Vehicle

Next in the wave of futuristic, alternative fuel cars - the Air Pod.

Shiva Vencat heads the United States operations of M.D.I. under the name Zero Pollution Motors. "We initially designed the car to run only on compressed air," he said. "But people had an issue with the range of 50 to 60 miles. The heater, which can burn ethanol, vegetable oil or other fuels, warms up the air, increases its volume, and extends the range. It has a viscosity sensor so it can adjust to whatever fuel you put into it."

Mr. Vencat said the six-passenger, fiberglass-and-foam-bodied air car will sell for $18,000 to $20,000 in the United States. He added that M.D.I. has more than 300 investors and has sold the rights to build 40 plants around the world. He envisions a network of small $20 million factories, each building cars at a rate of one every half hour. Plants in the United States will open in late 2010 or early 2011, he said, with the first possibly located in Newburgh, N.Y. Then again, back in 2000, Mr. Nègre said he would be building cars in 2001.

Zero Pollution Motors claims that the new and improved air car can now leapfrog any known battery technology. The company's Web site says, in fact, that its pneumatic vehicle can travel 848 miles (with the equivalent of 106 miles per gallon) on one tank of air, though an asterisk indicates this is "estimated performance and subject to change."

It reminds me of the Isetta that was featured in the musical Funny Face (i think the Germans nicknaming the Isetta the "coffin car" kinda says it all).

On the one hand, it seems ideal for short trips to the supermarket or to pick up your takeout. On the other hand, it sounds pretty shady that you could run a vehicle on compressed air alone. As the commenters have pointed out, where are you getting the energy to compress the air in the first place?

By min | November 3, 2008, 8:30 AM | Science