The Mysterious Air Car: Is It Real?

April 8th, 2013

MDI air car

There’s always some kind of magical new solution to power our cars being passed around the Internet. I’ve read about ways to convert your car to run on water, listened to pitches on computer chips that claim to increase fuel efficiency, even wondered if someone would try to remove the floor to achieve a Fintstones effect. Rumors fly, and the idea of a cheap but effective way to save on gas is a huge draw for just about every person living in the developed world.

So when I saw a video making the rounds on Facebook about a new air-powered car, my suspicions got the best of me. I watched the video.

The concept makes sense and, according to the video, there are working prototypes built. The car could sell for $15,000 and run on nothing but compressed air while emitting perfectly clean air. Is this another case of too-good-to-be-true wishful thinking?

Probably.

Traditional gas engines actually run on compressed air. Of course, liquid fuel is added to the mix to ignite and create a force strong enough to pump pistons inside the engine. Guy Negre, of MDI Enterprises, says the air-powered engine he invented does the same thing, only without the fossil-fuel powered explosion. Instead, compressed air enters the engine, decompresses, and pushes the pistons. The logic makes sense, but how much power can be harnessed through air alone?

The video doesn’t give specific power outputs, but does say the prototypes can go 200 miles on a tank of air and reach speeds of up to 60 miles per hour.

Online searches for Guy Negre and MDI lead to many company-sponsored links, and various Wiki pages claiming the engineering is an Internet hoax. The biggest argument for the hoax is the fact that compressed air simply doesn’t have the energy density to propel a vehicle consistently for many miles. There’s also the small fact that there is no third-party public proof of this technology or that it’s anywhere near being available for consumers. My personal red flags were raised just by watching the grainy, poorly edited but well-narrated video. Someone obviously took a cue or two from the History Channel when choosing a narrator.

Further research, though, led me to the Tata Motors website. Tata, which owns Jaguar and Land Rover, has a very short press release on its site from last year that says,

proof of the technical concept in Tata Motors vehicles has now been successfully completed with the compressed air engine concept having been demonstrated in two Tata Motors vehicles.

While that isn’t outright public proof, it is at least a little bit of credibility for MDI.

I love the idea of an air-powered car. Driving perfectly clean would be a dream come true, and the technology would surely spread like wildfire once developed and proved. Are MDI and Tata about to change the world, or is this nothing more than a very literal application of the term “vapor” ware?

We’ll keep watching, with a skeptical eye.

Do you think an air-powered car is real, or even feasible?

-tgriffith

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  1. Randy
    | #1

    You non-techie types never think these things through. Just where does that compressed air come from? Washington. (sorry, just hot air from there.) To compress air, you need a motor-driven compressor. It can be electric, gasoline, natural gas or diesel, but it’s basically a motor driven piston engine. Given the parasitic friction and all the other efficienty losses of both the driving motor and compressor, you end up with a process that’s less than 60% efficient. Subtract more when you add up the losses in the compressed air car (CA motor, drive line, tires) and you are well below 50%. What that means to the great unwashed mass of car buyers is that you’re much better off driving the car directly with an electric, natural gas, gasoline or Diesel motor. That’s why such BS schemes never take work, because the underemployed geeks that develop this stuff are just doing it to piss away government grant money.

  2. Ted
    | #2

    a few other problems….

    It would take a huge volume of compressed air just to drive a vehicle just a few miles never mid 200. Just where are going to store that much compressed air?? ..and in what. It would need to be very strong and therefore probably very heavy…. think thoose large cylnders of Compressed gases. …. and of course, the air insel does weigh something. …. and then there is the little problem of Cooling as the compressed air is released. ( more technicaly – the heat taken from the surrundings as the comprssed air expands. )

    in Short …. a Total hoax

  3. Rneal
    | #3

    Randy :
    You non-techie types never think these things through. Just where does that compressed air come from? Washington. (sorry, just hot air from there.) To compress air, you need a motor-driven compressor. It can be electric, gasoline, natural gas or diesel, but it’s basically a motor driven piston engine. Given the parasitic friction and all the other efficienty losses of both the driving motor and compressor, you end up with a process that’s less than 60% efficient. Subtract more when you add up the losses in the compressed air car (CA motor, drive line, tires) and you are well below 50%. What that means to the great unwashed mass of car buyers is that you’re much better off driving the car directly with an electric, natural gas, gasoline or Diesel motor. That’s why such BS schemes never take work, because the underemployed geeks that develop this stuff are just doing it to piss away government grant money.

    The problem with this attitude is and air engine requires 1 heat engine to work.
    How many engines does it take to get the oil out of the ground refined and into your car. 5+ 6+ if you include your car.

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