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Whatever Happened To That Compressed Air Car Anyway?

Remember that compressed-air powered car that Tata in India was going to build? Whatever happened to that?

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Back in 2012, the Indian automaker Tata was touting its air-powered car, called the Tata Air Car, to the world and claiming that it would go to production as one of the cheapest and simplest cars on the road. Fast-forward to the end of 2014, two and a half years later, and we still haven't seen any Air Cars on the road. Why not?

The concept for the car was shown in May of 2012. "With questionable science and wild engineering claims, Tata India appears serious about taking their compressed air powered car to production," I said when reporting it here at Torque News.

The car was claimed to have a 50 mph top speed and 80 mile range using only compressed air, which could be refilled in about two minutes. The drivetrain was taken directly from the AIRpod concept in Europe. The problems of compressed air as a means of propelling a car, however, are many, not the least of which is the very poor fuel efficiency it offers.

Ever since showing off the Tata Air Car taxi prototype, the company has been in "phase two" of their plan to put the car into production. That phase has the vague goal of "fine-tuning the car for market." The showcase of the 2012 car was already a little off schedule, as that was planned to happen the year before.

After that showing, Tata has been silent on the compressed Air Car concept. It's doubtful that anything more will come of it.

On other fronts, several companies around the world are toying with compressed air vehicles and even hybrid-electric compressed air drivetrains. The core issue with compressed air is that it must either be very high pressure or there must be a lot of it stored on the car in order for it to be feasible for any distance. This poses problems as compressed air tanks get heavy when filled and several of them can outweigh a typical small engine. Further, compressing air and then returning it for use to propel a vehicle is very energy inefficient, with only about 25-35% efficiency overall.

Earlier this year, Peugeot showcased their "HYbid Air 2L" demonstrator in Paris. That vehicle, was very innovative, utilizing a compressed air system and a small 1.2-liter gasoline engine in a hybrid format. We talked about it here.

For the most part, the idea of propelling a car on compressed air is not very realistic. For very short distances at low speeds, it's been proven as feasible, though not always efficient. At higher weights (to meet safety standards) and speeds, however, it's mostly a pipe dream.

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Joseph Ozer (not verified)    April 21, 2015 - 8:55AM

Another variation on my previous idea would be to use the exhaust heat from a small gasoline engine, a lawn mower or motor scooter engine instead of a flash boiler to create steam. The power from the engine could help power the car through a standard transmission or an electric drive motor.

Joseph Ozer (not verified)    April 21, 2015 - 8:55AM

Another variation on my previous idea would be to use the exhaust heat from a small gasoline engine, a lawn mower or motor scooter engine instead of a flash boiler to create steam. The power from the engine could help power the car through a standard transmission or an electric drive motor.

althom (not verified)    May 13, 2015 - 5:12AM

In reply to by Lucas PB Adriaenssen (not verified)

@ Lucas. Have been reading your comments. You might be interested to know that I have a silent running motor design that is suitable for compressed air and is 9lbs/4kg for 450hp/336kW and 1600 lb-ft torque at 0-10 rpm. The lower 100hp model successfully tested. The 8hp model is hand palm sized and under 1 kg.

Macquire (not verified)    May 2, 2015 - 11:30PM

The developers have the right idea, which is not emphasized well enough, regarding their plans to develop on-board energy supply with self-sustainability, as well the inefficiency being addressed by intergrating other phase components to channel and create more available and efficient energy.

Unknown (not verified)    June 26, 2015 - 7:16AM

the reason why there is no air car around is because it would be a big boost on money and You're not allowed be rich fast and quickly. we have already found how to make cars powered by Water and maybe other sources. the reason why we cant buy and use cars powered by other than Benzine and oil, because it makes you rich quickly. The reason why there is a film named ``Cars`` is because we have to accept that you have to buy and drive Benzine powered cars , ESPECIALLY teens. Every plane in norway has chemtrails in it, chemtrails are filled in planes, once they fly up they start spraying over the air. they are dangerous, they are chemicals that can kill Animals and us Humans. The chemtrail lines fall down in aproximately 24 hrs

gbshaun (not verified)    July 8, 2015 - 3:21PM

In reply to by Unknown (not verified)

I thought it was space aliens who had struck a deal with the airlines to add chemicals to our atmosphere so when they invade us in their UFO's they don't have to wear those helmets.

Mike Lee (not verified)    August 12, 2015 - 6:55PM

I don't understand the safety "issue" . We already allow people to have and operate a vehicle that has zero protection for the driver. It's called a motorcycle. And here in Texas we can't even seem to be able to pass a law that requires a motorcyclist to wear a helmet. ! ! ! ! How can you separate these things? How can my government FORCE me to have a side door on my car that will give me x amount of protection on a side impact put allow me to have a vehicle that if I fall over while setting still at a red light...... could break my foot,knee or leg. Things like this make me livid. This car surely has more protection than a motorcycle for christ sake ! ! ! ! I could gladly sign a document that tells me I'm about to purchase a vehicle that has only a little more protection than a motorcycle. Sounds like a great trade off for not needing to buy gasoline AT ALL. And I know that I will still need a few dollars of electricity to use my air compressor to "fill up" my tank ! ! PS: I don't like the tiny AIRpod.... I prefer the small mini utility van that MDI has built.

barry maddox (not verified)    October 20, 2015 - 7:43PM

I have shares in m d I but never get any info in English only French so do not know how things are progressing I purchased share in 2003 but have not seen any return on my Invesment and fear I may have made a big mistake in investing as I am not kept informed.

pawiz khairi (not verified)    November 1, 2015 - 4:01AM

Dear All,
Rather unrealated to the topic but it concerns Air generated power to drive engines. I am referring to the claim that a Chinese company Luck Sky has a air generated/air power technology that can "fuel" a normal auto (otto) engine. They call it "aerodynamic engine"
Is there someone who knows how this technology works. I am baffled as they also mentioned "plasma"?
Thank you

Ajay Goyal (not verified)    January 26, 2016 - 7:27PM

If the "air motor" can acheive 68% efficiency.... and to it is added the energy used in compression .... one could perhaps obtain an overall energy efficiency of .... 40-45%..... Now as power plant efficiency varies from 35-60% for Thermal/Combined Cycle projects.... one gets an "end to end" efficiency of around 12-24%.... not very different from IC engines.... However.... one by product of "air power" is.... "free airconditoning"... very essential in hot parts of the world.... raising the "thermal efficiency" by another 5-15% or so and then there is regenerative braking that can further enhance efficiency.....

In addition... "compressed air storage" is much much cheaper, greener and technologically simpler than expensive, limited life/ heavy batteries with substantial (an unaddressed) environmental hazards
during their disposal.

However..., they all pollute "somewhere"...... and if the "energy source" is solar energy..... then one will have "real green and clean" automobiles.... from end to end.... from an operational point of view.

With respect to the "green profile" of the front end (manufacturing) and the "rear end" waste disposal..... air power would definitely come out
ahead.... again.... without any serious waste disposal issues, unlije batteries.

When I went to engineering school over 50 years back.... there was no value or penalty on "tertiary effects" and we were "trained" to just look at "direct effects"..... thermal, electric, mechanical efficiencies and losses.... and the industrial "revolution" was fueled by this "vision".

It now appears we were are not "smart enough" as we buried our hands in the sand and ignored the damage we were doing all around us..... Perhaps, the time has come to ensure we "learn from our past
mistakes".... and this is what air, electric, hydrogen etc.. vehicles is all about... cost, range, acceleration etc.... ignores all this... does it not...???

Donald E Jacobs (not verified)    February 28, 2016 - 4:58PM

Very interesting subject, and there is a lot to talk about - I also think Air Power can be made usable.

Geert (not verified)    November 12, 2016 - 4:18AM

Cars, bicycles, boats, trucks driven bij air. I like to join that. Are there already possibilities?
Tata Nano was designed to be the next MDI air car, I am still waiting on this car, when...

Jerzy (not verified)    November 17, 2016 - 11:26AM

I have been waiting for this car for two decades now.
I even ordered them on MDI website.
I would probably manage to put something like that myself in those 20 years, but I trusted the experts.
I hope I will get a ride in this car before I die.
And one more thing - do these cars need to be that ugly?
Get another designer asap
and someone who can run things efficiently
I am tired of waiting

Ian McCabe (not verified)    November 16, 2017 - 11:26AM

No-one has mentioned a trompe as a means of producing compressed air at zero cost after initial materials which are not expensive. Google it.

christopher powrie (not verified)    November 28, 2017 - 11:44PM

what you have written is all patently untrue. The compressed air engines were made in huge numbers for use in tiny commercial delivery vehicles to auto-buses, one of which was exported to Spain for trials when I lived there. I suspect the Tata people were paid off or threatened into not persevereing with the air car which was easy to refill and cost virtually nothing. There are still little tata vans and chug alongs to be found working away in India. Better to not speak than say untruths.

Arman (not verified)    December 29, 2017 - 10:11PM

Is it possible to have an air car in reality? If yes, how much air is needed for that car to drive 500 miles per air charge? I wonder how the air car will be filled with air.

Les (not verified)    September 18, 2019 - 12:00AM

Instead of using large, heavy cylinders to store compressed air, constuct a vehicle body of small bore tubing covered with, say, glass fibre. In the event of damage, small bore tubing bursting, would not create much danger. More imagination is needed in design. Motorists have been milked ever since the first vehicles appeared and electric cars are another example of continued milking with battery replacement . A pneumatic car would free a motorist from many expenses.

christopher powrie (not verified)    September 19, 2019 - 12:27AM

I was interested in Tata Cars and buses for years and thought they must be the vehicles of the future. I bleive they were bought out and suppressed but that may be my paranoia.

Me (not verified)    December 2, 2019 - 7:23PM

In reply to by christopher powrie (not verified)

Here it is December 2, 2019, and no compressed air car in sight! Nor even over the horizon somewhere! The tin hat type people, of course, see conspiracy theories under every rock, but reality has reared its ugly head and shown the whole idea of running a vehicle on compressed air is not doable in the real world! The general public's ignorance of the laws of physics has allowed scam artists to make a killing on this nonsense!

Athena (not verified)    February 21, 2020 - 12:27AM

In reply to by Me (not verified)

I beleive that TATA motors was bought off by the oil and gas industry oligarchs. This would spread like wildfire if it was true. All of the Ecovillages and CoHOusing Communities would have 2-4 of them for people to use in their communites.

Gabriel Sierra (not verified)    October 5, 2020 - 1:04PM

The Air Car concept originated in France by Guy Negre of MCI. The design was licenced to Tata Motors. Guy could not find much financial support for the project. I would had definitely buy one of his cars. His business model implied building a car manufacturing factory in each country in order to keep the car cost down and to ensure local service. But it went down the drain.

BRAD BLONJEAUX (not verified)    October 28, 2020 - 8:25PM

Compressed air with driving regeneration is perhaps too logical with unlimited distance capability & would make battery power obsolete.

Rebecca Sinclair (not verified)    November 24, 2020 - 1:41PM

What is the air pressure in the car air tank at full pressure?
How much horsepower is needed to ram that air in there, or press into storage?
High pressure air is expensive to make, and so is the equipment needed to provide a constant supply of high pressure air. Air tanks are very heavy or very costly to make out of lighter stuff. Compressed air is as dangerous as high pressure water and the safety standards are costly to maintain.