The Air Car – Is It Finally Here?

Powertools have run on air for decades, so why not cars? Quite right, french company MDI has designed the first compressed air engine. $2 worth of electricity will fill the car to last for just over 200 kilometers.
Out of the exhaust comes clean, breathable air.

The Air Car is the wider name for a number of models planned for production by MDI, including a 3-seat MiniCat due for 2008 and a 5-seat CityCat, among others. Their engines will either be dedicated compressed air engines—which release compressed air to activate the pistons—or dual fuel engines, using both compressed air and conventional gasoline. Either way, it’s hard to argue with compressed air as a clean, abundant, and inexpensive fuel source.

The MiniCat, running only on a compressed air engine, has a top speed of 68 mph and a range of as many as 120 miles. The recharge. Overnight at home, it will require about 4 hours. At a proposed recharging station, as a few as 4 minutes. A liter of vegetable oil can last the vehicle about 31,000 miles.  At the tailpipe, emissions are zero. However, air compression—whether done at a station or at home—requires electricity, which is typically generated by using fossil fuels.

One thought on “The Air Car – Is It Finally Here?”

  1. The biggest drawback to the MDI car is that the heat of compression is wasted. This is most of the energy produced by compressing air. A better way would be to compress the air onboard the vehicle using a multistage piston compressor with intercooling between stages. The heat of compression can be stored in an insulated tank filled with paraffin or a eutectic salt solution. The compressor and air tanks(s) would also be insulated to minimize heat loss.
    When the vehicle is running the compressor becomes a multistage expansion engine that uses the stored heat to heat the expanding air. This heating can be enhanced by using the waste heat from a small gasoline engine. This would boost the power and range of the compressed air engine. A compressed air piston engine would not need a transmission.

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