Will Compressed Air Ever Power Our Cars?

Tata compressed-air car?

The real thing or just a bad Photoshop creation?

I do a lot of research on cars and the auto industry and sometimes see old stories resurface and get reported as new again. One of those happened yesterday, when I saw the headline, “Tata’s New Target- A Car to Run On Compressed Air.” The story is dated September 27, 2011, and mentions the new air-powered Tata MiniCAT (sometimes called a CityCAT).

How interesting. Because it sure seems like I’ve heard that before… Oh yes, here we go. Here’s the same story from July 9, 2008.

The “air-powered car” story has certainly made the rounds, and for some reason people still cling to hope that its release is imminent. However, a search on Tata’s website turns up zero results, and no new information seems to have surfaced since 2008. The technology is said to have been invented by Guy Nigre and his company MDI.

The early stories at least seem somewhat credible, as Autoblog reported in 2007,

The CityCAT’s made of lightweight, glued-together fiberglass and foam, and the engine is made up almost entirely of aluminum. The air tanks hold 52 gallons of compressed air at 4,351psi, and refueling can take only three minutes at your local gas station. You can also plug in the vehicle for about four hours, so the on-board compressor can fill the tanks at a cost of about $2. Initial plans call for Tata Motors to produce about 6,000 of these air-powered transportation devices for the India market, but 12 other countries including Germany, Isreal [sic], and South Africa have signed deals with MDI to buy their own air-cars.

It was also reported that this glued-together car with carbon fiber air tanks can travel up to 100 miles on a tank of air and will cost just north of $8,000. Right. Anyone else not surprised we haven’t seen this car yet? Might as well also promise that its only exhaust is pure gold that can be collected and mailed in for cash.

In fact, back in 2009, the New York Times ran a piece pretty much debunking the whole air-powered-car thing. So now I say we officially put this story to rest.

Do you think we’ll ever see a mass-produced air-powered car on U.S. roads?


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  1. Batteries are good & getting better. The distance record on one charge has been taken out to ~ 300 kM here in Australia. That battery weighed .4T, cost $25,000 – & has a 10 year life, if you are lucky.

    A well designed carbon fibre air cylinder will last indefinitely and is light.

    By changing the camshaft engines can be made 2 stroke – and will also have almost limitless life.

    If the above if only half as good as batteries, & the electricity comes from Wind farms – would that not be better?


  2. Yeah right. If this were real every automaker in the world be doing it. Thanks for not seeing that article, assuming it was real and then reporting on it. Woulda looked foolish.
    Carbon fiber air tanks? Hell those would cost $8,000 right there.
    Glued together fiberglass? Well, see Randy’s comment above.

  3. If you invented a machine that could turn water into gasoline at a relatively low cost, do you think it the technology would be easy to sell and proliferate? Given the lack of interest in compressed air cars, no doubt there are some shortcomings that the inventors are not publicizing. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to get broadsided by a Ram pickup in a car made of glued up foam and fiberglass.

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