As far as hybrid and alternative technology goes, perhaps the most unheralded form comes in the compressed air car. Compressed air has been used to power everything from trains to torpedoes since the middle of the 19th century, placing it among the oldest alternative fuel technologies out there. Compressed air is also the most different from standard propulsion technologies, owing to its unique storage and energy conversion challenges.
Perhaps the biggest challenge facing compressed air vehicles today is longevity. While most alternative fuels generate the same amount of power throughout an entire energy reserve, compressed air relies on the pressure generated when there is more air in the tank. As the air supply diminishes, so does power, which can severely limit the range of the vehicles. On the flipside, compressed air can be quick to refill and extremely clean to run, though for most applications it will need a secondary energy source for power outside an urban setting. Like most alternative propulsion, compressed air companies are marketing their products for the urban consumer, hoping success could drive development toward the suburban and even rural driver.
Sites Worth Visiting
Unfortunately, the youth of modern compressed air vehicle technology and the relative obscurity of the manufacturers means there isn’t much info out there by way of blogs, forums, and community sites. We’ve compiled some of the best links we could find on the technology for compressed air vehicles and major developments in the industry.
Compressed Air Vehicles at Wikipedia
When no one else has the info, its almost a sure bet that Wikipedia will. The page reads as though it’s been translated from another language, but it is still very informative. Some of the more helpful sections include the advantages and disadvantages of using compressed air over other forms of alternative energy.
Compressed Air Vehicles at Yahoo!
Yahoo! has become the exception to the rule concerning community sites for alternative fuels. This page is TINY, but hopefully with a little bit of attention and a few more fans it can develop into a solid community for CAV fans.
Compressed Air Vehicles at How Stuff Works
It’s hysterical that this page is called ‘How Air-Powered Cars Will Work,’ considering there are several production level vehicles out and about these days. The page is fairly solid, though, with a quick overview on making a functional compressed air vehicle for the everyday consumer.
The green version of everyone’s favorite Autoblog is all about alternative fuels. Unfortunately, the posts concerning air cars are few and far between, but likely better here than anywhere else. At least when something of serious influence happens, you should be able to read about it here.
The Buzz From Tata
Everyone’s talking about the mini-CAT from a French company owned by Tata Motors. The car can reportedly reach up to 120 miles for an estimated $2 tank fill. That’s a fair sight better than most cars today, but is the thing marketable? For the most part, we’d say the car is fairly ugly, and there are plenty of objections to overcome before these things start moving like hotcakes.
MiniCAT Service Issues Will Slow Sales
This article also covers the mini-CAT, the frontrunner in compressed air vehicles at the consumer level. The big question from the author here, though, is whether Tata is ready to invest in the service network required to make the mini-CAT a success. When your car has a problem, who doesn’t want the peace of mind that a qualified technician is within 10 miles? What if the closest tech were more than 1000 miles away?