Tata Motors of India plans on releasing it’s compressed air powered MiniCat Air Car in August of this year. The 6 seated MiniCAT doesn’t use gasoline, diesel fuel, natural gas, or electricity to run – instead it runs solely on compressed air.
The zero emission MiniCat Air Car works by using compressed air to push the engine’s pistons As the compressed air is released, it expands, which provides the power, with an additional benefit – the temperature of the air released drops significantly, which means that the cold air can be used for air conditioning in the passenger cabin. It also uses regenerative braking similar to hybrids, PHEVs and pure electric cars, but instead of the braking charging a battery, the energy recovered is used to compress more air. It’s an extremely lightweight car – the body is made mostly from fiberglass, using a bonded (glued) tubular chassis rather than a welded steel one.
Tata Motors says that the cost of charging and running the Mini Cat will be about 1/10th of what it costs to operate a gasoline powered car. You can fill the MiniCat’s compressed air tanks at home in about three or four hours using the onboard air compressor, or you’ll be able to fill it in two to three minutes using specially designed air compressors that Tata Motors will be placing in gas stations in India. Cost to fill up your car at these gas stations? About $2.49 per fill up – which gets you about a 180 mile range for under $3.
Whether this car will be sold in markets other than India remains to be seen – the top speed is about 60 miles per hour, which means it probably wouldn’t be much more than a city car here in the US. Not having the infrastructure at gas stations also would impact sales, unless the air compressors used to inflate tires could be used. The cost of the MiniCat Air Car certainly would be appealing – Tata Motors plans on selling it in India for the equivalent of about $8,000.