Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Do you like to travel in car which consumes air instead of petrol to avoid the carbon effluents?

One of the companies that have done extensive research in the area of air engine technology is MDI of France

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One of the companies that have done extensive research in the area of air engine technology is MDI of France. The French company has signed an agreement with Tata Motors. The partnership is expected to work towards developing the air engine for applications in India.

Can a car really runs using just air? Even if such a technology can be developed, will it be economically viable? And what about safety and emissions? Would it be safe to carry compressed air tanks in the car?

The answer to all these questions is yes. Of course, there are a few buts too…

It has been a dream to develop a vehicle that runs on compressed air. It sounds like it will be unbelievably cheap to run, an answer to all of the world’s oil-stained woes, and better still, be a zero-polluting vehicle with the exhaust being just regular air.

Also called CATS (compressed air technology system), these engines feature a specially adapted engine to enable its pistons to be driven simply by the thermal expansion of the compressed air fed into it. There is no combustion of fuel, as in a traditional engine that uses fossil fuels. Instead, the redesigned parts of a two-stroke engine, including pistons, single crankshaft and connecting rods, are all tuned to handle the high pressure of the expanding air.

The French company has developed two technologies to meet the different needs, and these include single energy compressed air engines that use only air and the dual energy ones that use compressed air plus fuel. Vehicles with the dual energy engine will work exclusively with compressed air while it is running under 50 km per hour in urban areas. But when the car is used outside urban areas at speeds over 50 km per hour, the engines will switch to the fuel mode.

The engine will be able to use petrol, gas oil, bio-diesel, liquefied petroleum gas, alcohol, etc. Both engines will be available with 2, 4 and 6 cylinders, when the air tanks are empty, the driver will be able to switch to the fuel mode, thanks to the car’s onboard computer.

MDI has also developed vehicles in-house that feature their air engine. These vehicles, including the CityCat and MiniCat, have fiberglass bodies which makes them lightweight and the car’s body is tubular, and is said to be held together using aerospace technology.

The recharging of the car or refilling of air will be done at air stations, once the market is developed. To fill the car’s tanks at the station, which will use a high-pressure delivery system; it will only take about to 2-3 minutes. After refilling, the car will be ready to run 200 km. The MDI car also has a small compressor that can be connected to a domestic electrical network (220V or 380V), which will pump air into and recharge the tanks completely in three-four minutes. Because the engine does not burn any fuel, the car does not need the kind of oils that traditional vehicles use. The MDI engine’s oil is only a litre of vegetable oil that needs to be changed every 50,000km.

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