According to the online publication Composite Week, some 6000 air-powered cars will be hitting the streets in India by August 2009.
The Air Cars, using technology developed by Luxembourg-based MDI Enterprises and ex-Formula One engineer Guy NËgre, are being built by Tata Motors which is also building the Nano, the least expensive production car on the planet.
The Air Car being built by Tata will be the MiniCAT. The three-seater operates on compressed air stored in high-pressure, carbon-composite tanks. MiniCAT is about 8.5 feet long, about the length of a smart car.
Composite Week offers additional details:
List price will be about Rs. 350,000 ($ 8177);
Range between air tank refillings will be 125-185 miles ( 200-300 kilometers) or 10 hours of driving. (That’s better than many electric cars);
MiniCAT’s top speed is 65 miles per hour (105 km/h);
Refills at public compressed air refilling stations (yet to be built) will take about 2-3 minutes and cost about 100 rupees, a little over $2. Air compressors could feasibly run on renewables, like wind or solar, for totally emission-free driving;
There’s an on-board, electrically-driven from the grid air compressor too, which takes 3-4 hours to refill the tanks;
The car has a lightweight aluminum frame that is glued together, not welded. The bodywork is a double skin of foam-injected glass fiber reinforced plastic;
To make the car’s wiring system less complex microcontrollers are used with electrical devices in the car: One tiny radio transmitter sends instructions to the lights, indicators etc. to activate them;
There’s no key, just an access card that can be read by the car from your pocket;
Engine lubrication is vegetable oil which is changed every 30,000 miles (50,000 kilometers);
Air conditioning is available which doesn’t require conventional air conditioning equipment. The temperature of the air expelled from the engine is low enough to chill air entering the passenger compartment.
Success of the MiniCAT Air Car in India may lead to global commercialization of the technology by budding industrialists yearning to get into the car business. MDI doesn’t want to manufacture the cars themselves, just licence the technology to others.
Composite Week is a publication of Lucintel, a business consulting and market research company.