Thursday, June 14, 2007

Tata Takes On Air

With all of the accelerated development in advanced batteries, most car companies are focusing on that technological track. Here is an exception from the largest car maker in India.

Air-Car Ready for Mass Production

Bob Ewig
Popular Mechanics
May 31, 2007

The world's first commercial compressed air-powered vehicle is rolling towards the production line. The Air Car, developed by ex-Formula One engineer Guy Nègre, will be built by India's largest automaker, Tata Motors.

The Air Car uses compressed air to push its engine's pistons. It is anticipated that approximately 6000 Air Cars will be cruising the streets of India by 2008. If the manufacturers have no surprises up their exhaust pipes the car will be practical and reasonably priced. The CityCat model will clock out at 68 mph with a driving range of 125 miles.

Refueling is simple and will only take a few minutes. That is, if you live nearby a gas station with custom air compressor units. The cost of a fill up is approximately $2.00. If a driver doesn't have access to a compressor station, they will be able to plug into the electrical grid and use the car's built-in compressor to refill the tank in about 4 hours.

The compressed air technology is basically just a way of storing electrical energy without the need for costly, heavy, and occasionally toxic batteries. So, in a sense, this is an electric car. It just doesn't have an electric motor.


Unfortunately, the streets of North America may never see the Air Car, though; it's light-weight, glued-together fiberglass construction might not do so well in our crash tests. However, that does not mean the Air car (watch video) is confined to the sub-continent. Nègre has signed deals to bring its design to 12 more countries, including Germany, Israel and South Africa.
And this isn't the last we'll hear of the technology. The folks making the Air Car are already working on a hybrid version that would use an on-board, gasoline-powered compressor to refill the air tanks when they run low. Negre says that technology could easily squeeze a cross country trip out of one tank of gasoline. "

In other Plug in Partner News:

New York City Joins Plug-In Partners
In a March 22 letter to Austin Mayor Will Wynn, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg pointed out that New York City is “a leader in the use of alternative fuel vehicles, with the largest alternative fuel fleet in the country,” and added, “This campaign provides New York with a terrific opportunity to make further strides in improving its air quality.”

Bloomberg also said that “Integrating the use of plug-in technologies with the City’s already successful alternative fuel vehicle efforts will allow us to further improve upon our past successes, adding to our arsenal of energy saving, low emission vehicles that benefit all New Yorkers.”

Consumers voice desire for plug-in hybrids
Automakers are hearing consumer wishes for plug-in hybrids from a number of directions. A recent survey question asked by Toyota was: “In the future, what direction would you like to see hybrids go?"

The results, as reported in a pie chart in a company newsletter, were:
6% Higher power output.
18% Alternative fuel hybrid.
37% Higher fuel economy.
39% Plug-in hybrids.

Not only did plug-in hybrids top the voting, but plug-in hybrids can also address the second and third finishers as well. Plug-in hybrids will dramatically improve fuel economy by drastically reducing or eliminating gasoline use in the daily driving of millions and plug-in can be build with flexible fuel engines, further reducing the use of gasoline.

Demonstration Vehicles
Many partners have inquired about the possibility of obtaining demonstration vehicles. So far the possibilities are very limited although we may be able to report soon on some changes in the market for conversion of existing hybrids to plug-ins. At Austin Energy we recently converted two of the utility’s Priuses to plug-ins. We think this will be valuable in demonstrating that the technology works. Our focus, however, remains on persuading automakers to mass manufacture such vehicles by demonstrating a strong market for plug-ins.

Plug-In Partners goes international
At Plug-In Partners we have intentionally limited our efforts to the United States, figuring a national effort is enough for one utility. Recently, however, we’ve been getting international inquires. Our first international partner City joined last month, the city of Vancouver, British Columbia. Vancouver was followed by British Columbia Sustainable Energy Association (BCSEA), a coalition of government and businesses in British Columbia. They join Canadian companies Veridian Corporation and Feel Good Cars as Plug-In Partners.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I spoke with JP Maeder, who is head of ZEVCAT, an anacronym of Zero Emission Vehicle Compressed Air Technology. He has the rights to the AirCar for the West and has had some problems getting financing for his venture. And there were some problems with the prototype that Guy Negre developed...listen here:

1:48 PM  
Blogger AE said...

thanks for the comment Matt. I think the point is this, plug in vehicles will come in many stripes, from the small Renault Kangoo with the on board charger, to the new Chev Volt.

However, if air batteries and engines prove effective, these are not just stripes, they will be a different breed.

Watch the imbedded video, the second air engine covered in the story looks very promising.

8:13 AM  
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