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The Air Car Nears Completion 750

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the whatever-blows-yer-hair-back dept.
torok writes "According to an article on Gizmag, Tata, India's largest automotive manufacturer, has developed a car that runs on compressed air. It costs less than $3 USD to fill a tank on which it can run for 200 to 300km. The car will cost about USD $7,300 and has a top speed of 68mph. About once every 50,000 km you have to change the oil (1 liter of vegetable oil). Initial plans are to produce 3,000 cars per year."
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The Air Car Nears Completion

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  • by User 956 (568564) on Monday March 19, 2007 @06:44PM (#18407393) Homepage
    According to an article on Gizmag, Tata, India's largest automotive manufacturer, has developed a car that runs on compressed air.

    Well, if you eat a lot of Tandoori, this is a great use for that compressed air.
    • India (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 19, 2007 @07:44PM (#18408175)
      If you have ever been to India you can see that this is infact a great idea. It sucks for America, sucks HARD, but Indian strees are swamped with three-wheeled-pull-start-lawnmower-powered Rickshaws and the air is noxious. These cars would be an excellent replacment for those and taxi companies could use the GPS features to the benefit of all. Not every invention has to only solve problems you know about to be good.

      The smog laws in America are almost pointless when you consider it's GLOBAL warming and India/Mexico are basically shitting into the atmosphere. If they can make this work ... awesome.
      • Re:India (Score:5, Funny)

        by User 956 (568564) on Monday March 19, 2007 @07:53PM (#18408255) Homepage
        If you have ever been to India you can see that this is infact a great idea.

        Yeah, but I really would have thought the Dutch would have come up with this idea first. The Dutch have been powering their Ovens with compressed gas for years.
      • Re:India (Score:5, Informative)

        by Vicissidude (878310) on Monday March 19, 2007 @07:55PM (#18408285)
        India didn't invent this car. Read to the end of the article and it says, "MDI is a small, family-controlled company located at Carros, near Nice (Southern France) where Guy and Cyril Negre and their technical team have developed the engine technology and the technologically advanced car it powers." That's right, this car was developed in France.
      • Re:India (Score:4, Insightful)

        by drix (4602) on Monday March 19, 2007 @08:25PM (#18408647) Homepage

        The smog laws in America are almost pointless when you consider it's GLOBAL warming and India/Mexico are basically shitting into the atmosphere.
        That is totally wrong. When you emit a quarter of the world's emissions, it's practically a mathematical identity that air quality laws aren't "pointless". I hesitate to invoke "An Inconvenient Truth" since that seems to just beg for immolation on the net forums, but having also seen it with my own two eyes .. the global impact of the Clean Air Act was real. The effects were felt worldwide in some fashion or another.

        And there is a lot more we could, and should, be doing. The first step to solving this crisis will be to realize that coordinated global action is not going to happen until many years after it's too late. Kyoto is a non-starter. Rather than foisting up the India-China emissions cabal red herring, the United States needs to assume its leadership role in the world and take tough, unilateral action on emissions. I guarantee that that would open the floodgates for all other nations in the world to follow suit.

        Funny how we're so happy to go-it-alone on some issues, yet perfectly content to bemoan the lack of international cooperation on others, no?
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Rather than foisting up the India-China emissions cabal red herring, the United States needs to assume its leadership role in the world and take tough, unilateral action on emissions.

          WAR ON SMOG.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Brad1138 (590148)
        Indian strees are swamped with three-wheeled-pull-start-lawnmower-powered Rickshaws and the air is noxious

        I'll take the job. Potato salad!
      • Re:India (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Rorian (88503) <[james.fysh] [at] [gmail.com]> on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @03:33AM (#18411429) Homepage Journal
        "The smog laws in America are almost pointless when you consider it's GLOBAL warming and India/Mexico are basically shitting into the atmosphere."

        I'm sorry, but I can't let this one fly. America is the worst polluter in the world, not just per capita, but OVER-ALL. You produce more pollution as a country than any other country in the world, and you produce (by a somewhat significant proportion) the most pollution per head. How you can be so naive as to sit there and even suggest any other country is "shitting into the atmosphere" is beyond me.

        You sir, are a dick.
        • Re:India (Score:5, Informative)

          by blakestah (91866) <blakestah@gmail.com> on Tuesday March 20, 2007 @09:38AM (#18413271) Homepage
          The US is not the worst in emissions per capita. This should be obvious a prior with a few small extremely rich Middle Eastern oil nations.

          http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/env_co2_emi_perc ap-environment-co2-emissions-per-capita [nationmaster.com]

          If you look at SO2 and NOx emissions per populated area, the USA is MUCH MUCH better. Our CO2 emissions comes with less SO2 and NOx than almost any other nation! In short, yes we burn a lot of fossil fuels, but we burn it cleaner than anyone.

          More to the point, fossil fuel usage, per capita, has been steady in the USA since 1976. We are not the primary source of change that is altering the planet for the last 30 years. We were already there 30 years ago!

          Change is heaviest in countries that are industrializing like Mexico, India, and China. Obviously, addressing the scope of the problem would require major changes in all nations. Currently there does not seem to be ANY HOPE of preventing further increases in greenhouse gases as there is nothing on the table to prevent nations that are industrializing from continuing on that track. Any changes that could be made in the USA, Canada, and Western Europe (and Oz and Japan) would pale in comparison to the large increases coming from China and India. And short-sighted, when you consider that capping CO2 emissions will force a quarter-after-quarter recession on all involved nations. And ain't that a pretty picture to consider?

          I, for one, welcome our new farting car overlords. They actually could help.
  • Danger... (Score:5, Funny)

    by LurkerXXX (667952) on Monday March 19, 2007 @06:45PM (#18407407)
    Did half-life 2 teach us NOTHING about the dangers of compressed air cannisters?
  • Mexico has had this (Score:5, Informative)

    by Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) * <seebert42@gmail.com> on Monday March 19, 2007 @06:46PM (#18407417) Homepage Journal
    Mexico has been using this tech for several years now [electrifyingtimes.com], though this is a bit smaller than the taxi vans.
    • by JayBat (617968)
      Your reference is about 7 years old. Those magical 40,000 Mexico City taxis don't exist. This is the standard Guy Negre boondoggle. He's been doing it for about 10 years or so, and every 2-3 years, he gets a bunch of press. (Including here on SlashDot if you look back a couple years.)

      BTW, the tanks are the real problem. Cheap, light, strong, pick any two. :-)

      -Jay-

  • I'm impressed (Score:3, Insightful)

    by overshoot (39700) on Monday March 19, 2007 @06:46PM (#18407427)

    It costs less than $3 USD to fill a tank on which it can run for 200 to 300km.
    Considering that the energy cost alone is quite a bit more than that, even next door to a power plant, that's quite an accomplishment.
    • Re:I'm impressed (Score:5, Interesting)

      by hey! (33014) on Monday March 19, 2007 @07:12PM (#18407751) Homepage Journal
      While I agree in principle, I'd be interested in the assumptions you used to reach that conclusion (e.g. how much energy it takes to move the machine a km).

      The amount of energy needed to move a person that far is not that much. An average cyclist can produce something like 3watts/kg. A 75kg cyclist produces something like 225 watts; assuming he can travel at about 20km/h, we can put a lower bound on the energy needed to move a typical person 200km at 2250 watt hours.

      Let's assume we have an engine that is as efficient as the rider (for setting the lower bound) and weighs as much as the rider. Lets suppose that we need twice the energy to move engine and rider the 200km. So we need 4500KWh.

      Assuming that electricity costs $0.10/KWh, then such a machine would consume forty five cents to move a person 200km.

      To put it in perspective then, the claim is that this car can move a person from place to place using only fourteen times the energy a reasonably fit cyclist would use.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Homo Stannous (756539)
        Let's do the math, but starting from different angle. Really cheap electricity is $0.10/kWh, and the fuel station will probably charge a 30% markup at a minimum, for $0.13/kWh. For $3.00, if the air compressor is 100% efficient and there are no resistive losses involved with charging the tank, and you charge it at constant temperature you can store 23kWhr. In reality it would store less because the air would heat up as it compresses, then cool down after you leave the pump. The pressure would drop as it
  • why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by stim (732091) on Monday March 19, 2007 @06:50PM (#18407473) Homepage

    Initial plans are to produce 3,000 cars per year.
    Is there a reason for that? That seems to be the way things like this go. We have a world changing invention thats super cheap and safe! We'll make a couple of 'em and see how it works out. . . Or maybe theres some validity to the theories that 'the powers that be' keep this kind of thing under wraps and prevent it from really taking off, because something like this could really upset the balance of power in the world currently.
    • Re:why? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Mr. Roadkill (731328) on Monday March 19, 2007 @07:27PM (#18407955)

      Is there a reason for that? That seems to be the way things like this go. We have a world changing invention thats super cheap and safe! We'll make a couple of 'em and see how it works out. . . Or maybe theres some validity to the theories that 'the powers that be' keep this kind of thing under wraps and prevent it from really taking off, because something like this could really upset the balance of power in the world currently.
      From an article mentioned by another poster, http://www.electrifyingtimes.com/guynegre.html [electrifyingtimes.com] :

      Based on a new concept of local vehicle production and sales, MDI promote regional manufacturing license rights in the form of franchised turnkey factory systems. Such a turnkey factory will have a normal production capacity of 2000-4000 vehicles per year and will employ some 130 people. A model factory is being constructed in Brignoles, France.
      My guess is that they don't have or can't raise the capital to take on the large manufacturers toe-to-toe, and are hoping their technology can get a toe-hold on places where local regulations for things like crash-safety won't kill a lightweight chassis and a fibreglass body... which sounds exactly like what they've done with the proof-of-concept fleet in Mexico and what they're doing through licencing the technology to Tata. Any idea what it costs to produce and certify a vehicle to meet European, US or Australian crash-safety standards? No, I don't know exactly how much either, but it has to be a lot. I'd imagine that it'd be relatively easy to build a vehicle like this that would be survivable if you flipped it - hell, the lack of weight would probably work in your favour. But cabin intrusion protection, in the event of some crazy SUV driver trying to occupy the same piece of road you do? That's hard enough to do with steel boxes smaller than another SUV, let alone something with something like this.
  • well... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Chimera512 (910750) on Monday March 19, 2007 @06:50PM (#18407489) Homepage
    this looks like the ultimate in vaporware, an as yet unavailable vehicle and runs on "air" might as well run on magic aether or unicorn blood. you can't even see air. pfft.
  • by naoursla (99850) on Monday March 19, 2007 @06:56PM (#18407559) Homepage Journal
    IC engines generate a lot of waste heat that can be used to warm the passenger compartment with little additional cost. On the other hand, IC vehicles need complicated a power hungry air conditioners to cool the passenger compartment during hot weather.

    The compressed air powered car operates the other way around. Compressed air cools as it decompresses. The exhaust from this vehicle is below zero Celcius. That cold air acts as free AC. A heating system for a vehicle like this is going to be very expensive from a power consideration.

    If these vehicles are not a scam then I think we can expect their adoption only in warm climates. In cold weather, I would not be surprised if the decompressed air freezes the components that transfer power to the wheels.
  • Wow (Score:5, Funny)

    by Tired and Emotional (750842) on Monday March 19, 2007 @06:57PM (#18407571)
    2-3 hundred kilometres - that's long downslope.
  • Lack of good info (Score:5, Informative)

    by TheAwfulTruth (325623) on Monday March 19, 2007 @06:59PM (#18407593) Homepage
    So.. it costs like 5-10$ to fill a single scuba tank. Where do they get their $1.50 figure from? There is no mention of how that figure is arrived at at all.

    Running a two stage compressor for 3-4 hours will probably cost more than $1.50 :/

    And "Zero-pollution"? Can we have some truth in advertising please? Using the car causes pollution, plain and simple. Maybe it's 1/10th or maybe less of a petrol car but at least be honest about it and let us know exactly how much pollution it does cause. It's certainly not 0. Saying so leads to people assiming that this is some kind of crank.
    • by registrations_suck (1075251) on Monday March 19, 2007 @07:08PM (#18407707)
      SCUBA air needs to be pure and clean. You pay extra for it for that reason if nothing else. Plus, SCUBA is an expensive hobby. You don't see many inner city youth taking it up as their hobby. Face it - divers tend to have money to burn, so of course they will pay more for their air (I'm a diver too by the way). Now, air for your car - hell, it can be any ole dirty air you want it to be. You're not going to be sucking it into your lungs at high pressure, so what difference does it make? Of course it will be cheaper than filling a SCUBA tank.
  • by mary_will_grow (466638) on Monday March 19, 2007 @07:04PM (#18407657)
    Remember in grade school arithmetic when the teacher would tell you to "check your work" to make sure answers werent preposterous?

    3 dollars to move a _car_ and _passengers_ that distance? Then I ought to use this same technology to build a generator. Instead of taking the kids to soccer practice, lets make electricity and put the power companies out of business.

    Its not that cheap, they are fudging the numbers, etc, etc, etc.

    Not that I don't like alternative energy study, and news about it. I just don't like it when crap like this gives us greenies a bad reputation. Its fodder for Fox News and George Bush to feed their mindless droves and keep them thinking "oil.. oil.. oil..."

     
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by squiggleslash (241428)

      2-300km range. A (half-way decent) motorbike will typically take a couple of gallons of fuel to do that. That's burning the fuel in a relatively inefficient and heavy engine carried with the vehicle itself.

      Why does $3 seem so outrageous to you? The air car is presumably light, it's not limited to gasoline powered fuel sources, it can get the energy from a finely tuned power plant rather than a local engine. I'm not seeing why there's so much skepticism. These kinds of figures have also been quoted for el

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by AvitarX (172628)
      It is not that crazy.

      Gasoline engine loses 80% of it's power.

      Geo Metro costs approx. $7.50 to go 300km (3.5 gallons @2.15)

      I don't know what the efficiency is of electricity, but it is certainly in the realm of possibility that this is efficient enough to cost $3.00/200-300km (if we use 200km it is real reasonable).

      I bet you don't pay any tax on compressed air either.
  • by NerveGas (168686) on Monday March 19, 2007 @07:08PM (#18407703)

        If this actually comes into being, there are some really neat side-benefits of this sort of thing. Principally, as compressed air is not only easy to generate, it can be generated *AND* stored locally. That means that it can be done via "renewable" energy (solar and wind) *as they are available*.

        As electricity is easy to generate locally - but not easy to store in sufficient quantity - you can't really have solar panels that will always be available to charge your electric car. However, you *can* have solar panels which fill your compressed-air tank, and then refill your can whenever you need.

        Overall, that means a completely petroleum-free energy source for cars. Even if you don't believe that man is behind global warming, the thought of removing most of the automotive-produced pollution has got to be an appealing thought, with the idea of never paying a utility company (gas OR electric) to refuel your can again as a nice bonus.
  • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Monday March 19, 2007 @07:09PM (#18407725) Homepage Journal

    You know, I'm starting to get the idea that it really WOULD kill the editors to actually edit something. This is of course proof that the Firehose cannot make up for the failings of idiot editors.

    Now, if there were no links in TFA, then torok would have an excuse for not knowing that this vehicle was actually developed by Moteur Developpment International, or MDI [theaircar.com]. If you visit their site you can read MDI's press release about their deal with Tata [theaircar.com]. But in fact not only the technology but the entire vehicle was designed by MDI. Not only have they been using them in Mexico (Mexico City is the most polluted city on the planet) but they've been using them for some years in Spain.

    Shame on you torok, and shame on you ScuttleMonkey. The former for falsely attributing the vehicle and technology to the undeserving; the latter for not doing his job and checking the story for validity.

  • Crash Testing (Score:4, Insightful)

    by registrations_suck (1075251) on Monday March 19, 2007 @07:11PM (#18407745)
    I'd like to see how this car does in crash testing. Sure, it's easy to make a light-weight car that can be pushed around with some compressed air, but designing one that doesn't kill all its occupants the first time it hits someone walk across the street, let alone a Hummer, is a bit trickier. Where is this car going to be produced? India? I somehow doubt the safety standards are all that high.
    • but designing one that doesn't kill all its occupants the first time it hits someone walk across the street, let alone a Hummer

      And I'm personally fed up of people who constantly buy hummers and other biggers car just to be the heavier of two in case of collision and hope for a better survival rate.

      - First, there's no proof that just by picking the biggest car you're on the safer side. There have both been very bad reviews of some asian manufacturer of SUVs, and very good tests of Smarts. The size isn't a gu

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Garse Janacek (554329)

      And I love the perspective that says that an efficient, lightweight vehicle wouldn't survive a collision with an enormous Hummer, and therefore there is a problem with the smaller vehicle...

      It seems a considerable oversight to me that Federal vehicle safety standards seem to consider almost exclusively the safety of the people in the vehicle, and not so much the people around it...

  • by lelitsch (31136) on Monday March 19, 2007 @07:12PM (#18407749)
    300 liters of 200 bar air has an energy content of about 35MJ or just about the same as 1 liter of gasoline. Even giving some credit for higher (perfect?) efficiency and some energy recovery through environmental heating, it seems to be a stretch to suggest that any reasonable useful car could run 2-300 miles on this. Actually, the energy content is probably a bit lower since they'll need some overpressure to run the engine (maybe 50 bar or so?). And I don't really want to be sitting in the car when they fill it. The heat generated by filling the tank is pretty much equivalent to burning a quart of gas in the trunk.
    [humor]Yes, I am kidding, there are ways to alleviate the heat generation like compressing outside, slow filling,...[/humor]
    • by pc486 (86611) on Monday March 19, 2007 @08:00PM (#18408321) Homepage
      Run the numbers again. First, it's kilometers, not miles (1km ~= .62 miles). Second, heat engines, like your gas car, are far and away from efficient. We're talking on the order of 30% if you're lucky. Third, pressures of 200 bar isn't as high as modern tanks can go. Modern mass-produced tanks can easily reach, and break in a safe way when damaged, 700 bar. Finally there's the whole weight deal. I'm willing to bet that these cars are much lighter than your typical gas-fed car.

      300 kilometers might be pushing it (not that I'm an expert here), but it's not implausible considering other efforts claiming similar ranges: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/2281011.stm [bbc.co.uk]
  • Bodacious (Score:4, Funny)

    by greenmars (685118) on Monday March 19, 2007 @07:16PM (#18407801)
    Those are some bodacious Tatas.
  • by PineHall (206441) on Monday March 19, 2007 @07:17PM (#18407817)
    This has been talked about before. The car was developed in Europe. Here is the developer's web site [theaircar.com]
  • Inaccurate (Score:3, Informative)

    by Colin Smith (2679) on Monday March 19, 2007 @07:18PM (#18407831)

    Its mileage is about double that of the most advanced electric car (200 to 300 km or 10 hours of driving)
    Electric cars can currently do 300 miles per charge.

    I've been following the air car for a while, it sounds like a great idea, the problem is that the engine is still a heat engine, so only about 1/3 of the energy used to compress the gas can be extracted, so even if the gas can be compressed to the same energy density as li-ion cells, you have to carry 3 times as much of the stuff.
     
  • The Air Car (Score:5, Funny)

    by Kozar_The_Malignant (738483) on Monday March 19, 2007 @07:18PM (#18407843)
    Damn. I read that headline and thought my flying car was almost ready.
  • Flat tire? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Nyktos (198946) on Monday March 19, 2007 @07:33PM (#18408035)
    Pesky kids let the air out of your tires, just fill em back up with your fuel... or run out of fuel, fill from your tires.
  • by The-Bus (138060) on Monday March 19, 2007 @08:48PM (#18408841)
    It used a skateboard and common cans of whipped cream. It never did propel me anywhere, but it was delicious.
  • by Fantastic Lad (198284) on Monday March 19, 2007 @11:02PM (#18409839)
    I give up.

    I can't make heads or tails out of this story. It looks too good to be true, and the links feel suspicious to me. --And no, I don't put any faith in Discovery Channel stories ever since I watched a piece on breast implant science which had a super-positive bullshit spin on it and was funded by one of the actual manufacturers of silicon implants. The Discovery Channel just plain sucks, but it's hard to recognize this because it's so easy to sell bullshit under the guise of the all-mighty 'documentary'.

    So can somebody please do the math and figure out if this Air Car idea is even possible? This is the area where the Slashdot crowd shines; Research, Thinking and Networking.

    Thank-You!


    -FL

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