Cars Running on Air, When Will this Happen

Fossil fuels are expensive and limited, no wonder huge sums of R & D money is being poured into research to develop or find an alternate energy source that will supposedly fuel tomorrows cars at low cost.


A vehicle running on the air seems fictional. Just imagine what it would be like to have Free Fuel for one’s car. Just imagine the number of vehicles on road. If this ever happens, the best thing would be to walk to work as the number of cars would make it impossible to drive thanks to all the traffic jams this number would create.

However, R & D experts all of the US, Europe and Asia are working at furious pace to make this fantasy come true. Whenever and if ever this does happen, one would have cars with Zero emission running on free fuel.


Air car is a vehicle that uses the compressed air as a fuel to pull the vehicle, it can either operate on 100% Air or mixed with gasoline, ethanol, methanol etc. Just the promise of Zero emission makes all efforts in this direction worth every billion spent on it. 

The basic logic behind the working of air cars is the expansion of gases. Gases can occupy any unfilled space according to law of physics. When gas is compressed & then allowed to expand, it does the useful work. This is the basic notion behind the working of air cars. Air is compressed into compressor air tank & then allowed to expand; the expansion is used to drive the piston resulting in the useful work done.  Carbon- fiber material is used in making the tanks of compressor which stores the air at approximately 300 bars of pressure. The air is compressed & then released. The expansion of air is then used to drive the pistons to move the vehicle. 

The first air car using the compressed air engine is being developed by French company Motor Development International (MDI). This design will be having the accelerator valve that is fitted into compressed air cylinder, which will release the compressed air into the engine. The release of air in a cylinder gives it space to expand which in turns does the useful work in the form of driving the pistons. It will have the 91 kilolitres of compressed air & will go as fast as  35 miles/hour. 


Depending upon the type of power plant, emission from air cars can range from zero to some quantity. If the engine operates only on air compressing phenomenon, it will have zero emission but if the engine has other source of mobility i.e. electricity, gasoline or hybrid, it can emit accordingly. Then the level of emission will depend only upon the other source powering the vehicle. Cleaner will be the source, less will be the emissions. 


· Zero emission when operate only on compressed air. Even with hybrid sources, emission is much less than gasoline counterparts.

· Reduced cost of vehicle as there is no need to build cooing system, ignition system etc. This decreases the initial price substantially. 

· Rate of discharge is very low as compared to electric vehicles. The rate of dissipation of compressed air is much slow & hence retention period is quite high as compared to other alternative fuel systems.

· Cooling of air can be utilized for lowering down the temperature inside the car. This will decrease the load on ac system of vehicle.

· Air cars are lighter in weight as the whole body can be made up with the aluminum. This reduces the weight; potential deterrent factor for performance. Benefits are immediate with high performance & fuel efficiency on the board.

· Air cars are very cheap to run, if reports are to be believed related to developments of air cars. It’s substantially cheaper than gasoline vehicles while even beating the cost of electric vehicles by healthy margin. 


· Range has a potential to become a big deterrent for air cars. These cars have limited range & far from the distance travelling ability of gasoline powered cars. On an average if you have traveling distance less than 100 miles you can bank upon the air cars otherwise it is better to take conventional vehicle.

. Lightweight construction could pose serious challenges for crash worthiness of car.

· Refueling of air compressor, if done at home, takes as long as 4 hours to fully fill. Though it can be done in minutes at specialized service station, availability of these stations is very less.

· Efficiency of the air cars are less compared to their battery powered counterparts.

Though the efforts are on full swing in US & Europe to develop & commercialize the concept of air car, it will take a while before we see the air cars running on roads. In India also Tata motors had announced the making of air car. The government incentives to pump up the developments of zero emission vehicles will surely provide impetus to such developments.

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