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Is Running On Compressed Air Just Too Much Hot Air?

In 2007 Tata Motors of India announced to the world that they had developed a car that would run on compressed air and that it would be on the market by 2008. In fact they even displayed a car (see below) and said that at least 6,000 would be on the road within months.

There were some remarkable claims made at the launch of this car:- 

• It would be totally emission free at the exhaust

• It could be re-charged at home in 4 hours, or at a garage in minutes

• It could have a range of several hundred kilometers before it needs a re-charge

• It would be frozen air that could be directly used as an airconditioner etc.etc.

• A fully optioned car could be put on the road for less than $10,000!

It sounds almost too good to be true, doesn’t it. So why haven’t we heard more?

Well, that’s a bit of a puzzle as Tata Motors, whilst being the largest vehicle manufacturer in India (and they also own Jaguar and Land Rover) have gone strangely quiet. Tata did admit to having some heat exchange problems with the technology a couple of years ago. In 2009 the University Of Berkely in California published a report that said “Even under highly optimistic assumptions the compressed-air car is significantly less efficient than a battery electric vehicle and produces more greenhouse gas emissions than a conventional gas powered car with a coal intensive power mix.

On the other hand Luxembourg-based MDI, the developer of the concept, is much more confident.

Their latest design (shown  below with and without clothes) was exhibited at the Paris Motor show last year.


Financial support for this venture has been provided to MDI by Tata, and MDI is certainly upbeat about putting an air-compressed powered car on the roads in the near future.

So will it happen?

We shall see.


  1. Greg says:

    Needs to be a useful car not a glorified golf buggy before people will be interested

    February 7th, 2012 at 10:20 am

  2. Wal Pywell says:

    THis is just an extension of the steam powered car. Most small steam models are actually driven by compressed air for displays etc. so why not develop a steam powered car. The range would not be limited if steam was generated by say, LPG. There are plenty of LPG refilling sites and water is readily available.
    The big problem for all these alternate powered cars ( air or battery) is the range and the time required for a refuel. Steam power solves these problems and a small boiler would produce only a very small amount of pollutants.

    February 7th, 2012 at 10:51 am

  3. Stuart Gluth says:

    In Brisbane, busses use breaking to recharge compressed air, which is used to supplement acceleration, so compressed air might be more useful in parallel with some other forms of energy

    February 7th, 2012 at 11:30 am

  4. Kevin says:

    Compressed air technology is very old, having been employed decades ago for safety reasons to drive locomotives and vehicles in the dangeerous atmosphere of underground mines.

    Overall it is just as dumb as electric cars that are recharged from the grid. All it does is move the pollution and the greenhouse emission from the car to the power station with greater loss in efficiency to boot!

    February 7th, 2012 at 12:57 pm