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Air Car Launch 'Just Around the Corner'

The Air Car may do better than fuel-cell cars, but experts say that using grid power to charge a battery-powered electric vehicle is much more efficient than using electricity to compress and store the same amount of energy in a tank.

Published: 16-Jan-2008

A French-designed car that's propelled by compressed air and claims speeds of more than 60 miles per hour is expected to go into commercial production as early as this summer, although skeptics of the technology aren't holding their breath.

Using compressed air, they argue, may mean zero tailpipe emissions, but it's unlikely to provide enough range or speed to appeal to the masses, particularly in North America. "Compressed air does not contain much energy--that's the killer," says Larry Rinek, senior research analyst for automotive technologies at consultancy Frost & Sullivan. "This is more a nice garage project for a Popular Science subscriber."

But the dream lives on. Motor Development International (MDI), based near Nice, France, has developed several prototypes of its Compressed Air Technology (CAT) car since its first engine was created 14 years ago. Now company founder Guy Negre, an aeronautics engineer who developed a high-performance racing engine for Formula 1 in the late 1980s, is counting on India's largest carmaker, Tata Motors, to bring his highly anticipated Air Car to market later this year.

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