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Zero Pollution Motors Pulling Energy Out of Thin Air
Zero Pollution Motors wants to revolutionize the auto industry with a vehicle that runs on compressed air. Photo via Pneumatic Addict.

Zero Pollution Motors wants to revolutionize the auto industry with a vehicle that runs on compressed air. Photo via Pneumatic Addict.

From the Associated Press:

Zero Pollution Motors is trying to bring a car to U.S. roads by early 2011 that’s powered by a combination of compressed air and a small conventional engine.

ZPM Chief Executive Shiva Vencat said the ultimate goal is a price tag between $18,000 and $20,000, fuel economy equivalent to 100 miles per gallon and a tailpipe that emits nothing but air at low enough speeds….

As Vencat spells it out, the “air cars” plug into a wall outlet, allowing an on-board compressor to pressurize the car’s air tank to 4,500 pounds per square inch. It takes about four hours to get the tank to full pressure, then the air is then released gradually to power the car’s pistons.

Many of the specifications of ZPM’s car are still speculative, but Vencat expects it to go about 20 miles on compressed air alone, and hundreds more after the engine kicks in, with a top speed of 96 mph.

The ZPM website says its mission is “to bring zero pollution motoring at any speed, for any distance, to the largest number of motorists possible and, in doing so, significantly improve the quality of the air we breathe and reduce our collective carbon footprint.”

But AP reporter Dan Strumpf highlights some limitations of the new technology:

  • “compressing air is notoriously energy intensive”
  • air compressors are much less efficient compared to other alternative-fuel powertrains, like hybrid-electric cars
  • “U.S. safety regulations could be another obstacle given the air car’s tiny size and light weight”

What do you think? Is the “air car” a legitimate solution? Or just more hot air from the auto industry?