A low cost car that runs on air? Probably a new hope for the Green Revolution.
Gasoline is already the fuel of the past. It might not seem that way as you fill up on your way to work, but the petroleum used to make it is gradually running out. It also pollutes air that's becoming increasingly unhealthy to breathe, and people no longer want to pay the high prices that oil companies are charging for it. Automobile manufacturers know all of this and have spent lots of time and money to find and develop the fuel of the future.
The search is on, but what will this fuel of the future be? Ready-made fuels like petroleum are becoming more difficult to find and automobile manufacturers are turning to greener energy sources like batteries. These batteries can be charged with energy and placed in a car where that energy can be released. As good as that idea might seem, some manufacturers think air could become an even better energy source.
Air? At first glance, the idea of running a car on air seems almost too good to be true. If we can use air as fuel, why think about using anything else? Air is all around us. Air never runs out. Air is nonpolluting. Best of all, air is free.
Unfortunately, air alone can't be used as a fuel. First, energy has to be stored in it by squeezing the air tightly using a mechanical air compressor. Once the compressed air is released, it expands. This expanding air can be used, for example, to drive the pistons that power an engine. The idea of using compressed air to power a vehicle isn't new: Early prototypes of an air-powered vehicle go back to the middle of the 19th century, even before the invention of the internal combustion engine.
The first air cars will almost certainly use the Compressed Air Engine (CAE) developed by the French company, Motor Development International (MDI). Air cars using this engine will have tanks that will probably hold about 3,200 cubic feet (90.6 kiloliters) of compressed air. The vehicle's accelerator operates a valve on its tank that allows air to be released into a pipe and then into the engine, where the pressure of the air's expansion will push against the pistons and turn the crankshaft. This will produce enough power for speeds of about 35 miles (56 kilometers) per hour. When the air car surpasses that speed, a motor will kick in to operate the in-car air compressor so it can compress more air on the fly and provide extra power to the engine. The air is also heated as it hits the engine, increasing its volume to allow the car to move faster
The vehicles themselves also will be relatively cheap. Zero Pollution Motors, which plans to release the first air cars in the United States and estimates a sticker price of about $17,800, which would make these cars affordable to budget-conscious American buyers.