Sunday, August 7, 2011

Being Green-Minded... Tata's New Air Car

Although the technology for air-powered engines has been explored by others throughout history (First recorded air-powered vehicle was in France in 1840) Tata's air-powered car is the first to bring this tech within reach.  The engine in use was developed by Ex-F1, Ex-Renault engineer Guy Nègre for the MDI Group.

Aside from being eco-friendly, the Air Car has a range of about 200km per air refill (cost of an air-refill is approx US$2) making it practical for everyday use.  A small electric compressor may be added to the car to allow convenient refilling from your home outlet in 4 hours, or it may be filled by an industrial air compressor in 3 minutes.  Since there is no combustion to burn the internal lubricants, oil changes are only needed every 50,000 km or so, and it uses vegetable oil for mechanical lubrication.

The most interesting trait of this engine is that its exhaust is COLD air, negating the need for an air-con system all together.  Exhaust air from the engine is 0-15 below zero.

If manufacturers (nudge, nudge...BMW-i ... nudge, nudge...) use this engine in their upcoming hybrids, the exhaust gas alone is enough to replace the entire Li-Ion battery cooling system and air-con system.  And extend the range of any electric car by providing an on-board generator that's way easier to refill than a petrol car.  Although the torque generated is quite low, it's more than enough to act as an electrical generator to recharge the Li-Ion batteries in upcoming electric cars, lowering their over-all carbon footprint.

Tata plans to sell the Air Car in India for approx US$8000 within the year.

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