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Thomas' Tech Tales

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Forget gas prices- air is in!

With gas prices going up and the economy going down it’s about time we had a car that didn’t rely on gas. Yes, there is biodiesel when it comes to those of you with diesel engines and there’s ethanol for most gas engines, but both of these products are still a hassle to produce in America. Biodiesel usually has to be made at home and can be dangerous, and American cars can not handle pure ethanol. Hybrid cars are a great option, but the main problem with these cars is the fact that they still use gas, even with great mileage. It’s hard to find a totally electric car today that is easy to maintain and charge, and solar cars are still years away from being viable. So what can we use to curb our emissions, save the planet, and most importantly… our wallets? Well, the answer is all around us - air, of course.

The month of August isn’t just going to be about the Summer Olympics, it will also debut the Air Car in India. Designed by Guy Negre, an ex-Formula One engineer, the car uses compressed air to push the pistons in the engine. While the Air Car cannot hit 200-plus mph - its highest speed is currently rated at 68 mph - it does have a zero emission rating and it only costs roughly two dollars to fill. In August of this year over 6,000 six passenger OneCATs, the economy model of the Air Car, will be released in India to be used as taxis. There are four models as of now that include a minivan of sorts, a two-seater, a family size, and a small pickup. India is not the only country to try out these new cars hitting the market; Israel, Germany, and South America are just a few more countries where the Air Car will be marketed.

Due to the safety standards of the United States, these first generation Air Cars will not be seen on our streets, but please! Do not lose hope! Zero Pollution Motors has announced that it expects to produce the first air-powered cars for the United States by late 2009 or early 2010. These next gen air cars will have an upgraded engine that, when coupled  with a fuel, are able to travel 1,000 miles on a tank with a top speed of 98 mph.

Now yes, I did mention a fuel, but bear with me for a moment. Right now the Air Car uses a new type of motor that can either use compressed air or act as an internal combustion engine. The compressed air is kept at 4,350 psi in carbon fiber tanks and is fed into the engine where it then expands; the expanding air causes the pistons to pump and gives the vehicle power. For the next gen coming out in America, the motor uses the same principles but is coupled with a fuel to make it a hybrid. When the car is traveling at about 45 mpg or lower it will be using solely compressed air; go above that and the engine automatically switches to a fuel or an air/fuel mixture. When the tank starts getting low you can either hook the car up electrically and use its onboard air compressor to fill the air tanks in about four hours, or use a high pressure pump to fill the tanks up within minutes.

If the rumors hold true, we could be seeing a car that can get over 1,000 miles on a single fill up of air/gas. Hopefully, with time, this technology will advance in a way so that air will be the sole fuel and we can really leave gas behind.

 

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Author info

Thomas McMahon Thomas McMahon is a student at Albertson's College of Idaho who, when he's not playing some geeky video game or designing some new, award-winning engineering project, plays basketball and tennis. His study interest is engineering.

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