Back in February we featured the for-too-long awaited MDI air-car. It's a car that's been talked about, hypothesised over, and invested in for so many years that a lot of onlookers have given up and gone home. I must confess to a reasonable degree of wishful thinking as we've contemplated the possibilities with this car - but, in regards to the certainty of its actually coming to market, I've been as swayed by the technical obstacles as the next guy .
Now, however, Popular Mechanics tells us our wait is (almost!) over:
India’s largest automaker is set to start producing the world’s first commercial air-powered vehicle. The Air Car, developed by ex-Formula One engineer Guy Nègre for Luxembourg-based MDI, uses compressed air, as opposed to the gas-and-oxygen explosions of internal-combustion models, to push its engine’s pistons. Some 6000 zero-emissions Air Cars are scheduled to hit Indian streets in August of 2008.
Barring any last-minute design changes on the way to production, the Air Car should be surprisingly practical. The $12,700 CityCAT, one of a handful of planned Air Car models, can hit 68 mph and has a range of 125 miles. It will take only a few minutes for the CityCAT to refuel at gas stations equipped with custom air compressor units; MDI says it should cost around $2 to fill the car’s carbon-fiber tanks with 340 liters of air at 4350 psi. Drivers also will be able to plug into the electrical grid and use the car’s built-in compressor to refill the tanks in about 4 hours.
Of course, the Air Car will likely never hit American shores, especially considering its all-glue construction. But that doesn’t mean the major automakers can write it off as a bizarre Indian experiment — MDI has signed deals to bring its design to 12 more countries, including Germany, Israel and South Africa. - Popular Mechanics
India could be seen as an ideal target market for developing an air-car infrastructure (i.e. establishing the necessary compressed air units at refueling stations). Since India's internal infrastructure is still in its infancy, a strong focus on such technology could, theoretically, see them avoid some of the huge environmental pitfalls China has been experiencing.