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Forget batteries, the new hotness is compressed air
The greener car of tomorrow just might be powered with compressed air.
Tue, May 26, 2009 at 04:00 PM
Zero Pollution Motors
is a 15-year-old company based in France that is planning on releasing a car next year in the U.S. that runs on compressed air
. Their cars use air tanks filled with compressed air to drive the engine. At less than 35 mph the engine uses the air exclusively, at higher speeds a heater warms and speeds up the air, recharging the air tank along the way. At the lower speeds a tank of air would take you 20 miles, traveling at faster speeds (engaging the heater and air compressor) would get you 100+ miles.
Air powered cars have disadvantages -- they can take a long time to recharge. Zero Pollution Motors expects a four-hour recharge time for their tanks, and some experts question the true efficiency of the model -- air compressors take a lot of energy to run and appear to be less efficient than hybrid cars in terms of miles/unit of energy.
But I think air powered technology comes out on top for one simple reason -- it doesn't require batteries. Batteries are heavy, expensive and made from exotic and limited materials like lithium. Air-powered cars just need an air tank and a compressor. It might not turn out to be the best choice for every transportation need but will find a few niches that it's perfect for. I'd love to have an air-powered riding lawn mower and would enjoy tooling around town in a small car exhausting nothing more than air.
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