As the Chevy Volt nears its release, the buzz around plug-in hybrids has opened the door to cars that run on a multitude of energy sources. Zero Pollution Motors has a car in the works that’s part electric, part pneumatic, and part gasoline powered. Here’s how it works: When parked, the car compresses a carbon-fiber air tank to 4000 psi via an inboard electric powered air compressor, which plugs into a household electrical outlet. The process uses about 2 dollars worth of electricity and takes about 4 hours. The car runs on compressed air when cruising under 35 mph. When exceeding that speed, or when the tanks lose pressure, a small gasoline powered generator powers the air compressor, replenishing the air tank. This system is good for over 100 mpg! The idea is simple, cheap and utilizes no advanced technology. Essentially it’s a plug-in hybrid like the Chevy Volt without the expensive batteries, utilizing an air tank as an alternate means of energy storage. The air-car’s lack of complexity allows the manufacturer to keep the price low—it’s projected have a price tag roughly one third the cost of the Chevy Volt. The gasoline is a means of extending the vehicles range, but is not needed if the car is kept below 35mph and driven short distances before recharging.

When you hear anyone talk of air-cars, understand that air is not a source of fuel. Rather, compressed air is a means of storing kinetic energy, like a rubber band does when twisted. A tank holding compressed air is a method of energy storage, much like a battery. Any car powered by compressed air-driven (pneumatic) engines run on whatever power source was used to compress the air in first place. In most cases, that power source is electricity. An air-car, like an electric car, is really only as green as the electricity used to compress the air tanks initially. If the owner plugs his/her air car into a power grid fed by coal power plants, the air-car indirectly becomes a coal-car.

ZPM’s air car is a brilliant, practical alternative to the plug-in battery powered hybrid. Thankfully, the idea is more than a concept—we could be seeing them stateside in less than 5 years.

3 thoughts on “pneumatic cars”

  1. I this is absolutely the perfect alternative vehicle… If this type of vehicle is approved for the USA (crash tests, air bags, etc) it will be (in my opinion) the best option because it doesn’t use heavy expensive batteries! Plus, the air tank lets the vehicle be recharged without having to be connected to anything (air is always available!).

    I don’t agree with it being a “Coal” car… C’mon! We don’t call our household electricity a “coal house”…Most electric (or this type) of cars will be charged at night, when electricity is mostly wasted! So if you’re making good use of that wasted electricity (no matter how it was produced)… it’s better than it just going to waste. Of course, If I was the government, I’d offer the incentive of offering free solar panel charging system with every alternative fuel vehicle… That would both help the user (by being able to charge the car for free) plus it would promote local installation jobs… and would help the local power companies during the night when electric vehicles (not this one) could store electricity that could be used during the day!

    Lastly, Let’s all start thinking about getting our next vehicle (even if it’s only a second vehicle) an alternative fuel vehicle… We need to get-off of foreign oil ASAP so that our military can start protecting our country, instead of oil fields and oil tanker routs!

  2. @George

    Well, George, after reading your comment I’m simply speechless; Not only have you crowned yourself Captain Obvious (Hail Ceasar!), but I feel I have to say a few things just to feel better about yours being one of the only two posts before mine.
    Firstly, let’s all be fair; 20% of electricity used in the U.S. today is coal-electricity, no matter whether it powers our house, our car, or our U.F.O.; and it is one of our country’s biggest focuses, even if it’s not upfront in the media, to switch to alternatives of fuel and energy and in turn make our country ever-so-slightly more efficient. Nuclear, solar, hydroelectric, and wind power are our best friends, but still less than 25% of our country is powered thus; globally, we need a switch to renewable energy; in a perfect world, this would be the focus of every world leader, and every citizen would be conscious of it, instead welcome to the Divided Countries of Earth.
    Secondly, wow, is this really the best vehicle for you because “it doesn’t use heavy, expensive batteries”? Yeah, air’s always (so long as you’re on our planet, or in an atmosphere comprised of some similarly-behaving gas) available, but why the need for a gas-powered recharger? Oh, right, because if you keep it under 35 m.p.h. you can get practically 100 m.p.g.!! Wait..keep it under 35? The whole time? Uh, duh, otherwise you’re losing pressure so fast you’re car can’t run on electrically-powered pneumatics, and then what are you running on? Oh yeah, gas. Of course there’s a need to improve the fuel-efficiency of our vehicles and even find a new source; with over 300 million Americans, we have roughly that many or more passenger vehicles! More than one for every licensed driver in the country! And with our steadily-rising population rates, it’s fairly well-indicated that transportation is becoming increasingly staple to the United States (and the world, in general).
    And then let’s not forget, George, about all that nighttime wasted electricity. I mean, at night, the electron fairies come out of your outlets and fly away, never to be seen again, but if you plug your car into it, the fairy gets trapped inside! They don’t come out in the daytime, because then we’d see them, so there’s definitely more wasted electricity at night that’s capable of being utilized just by plugging our car in at night.
    No, instead, we can shut off unneeded lights and superfluous appliances that are using electricity at times of the day (or night) when we’re not using them. Plugging your car in will only add one more drain to the national power grid, and you won’t save one electron more than if you hadn’t plugged it in.
    And yeah, everyone should start thinking about alternative-fuel vehicles, whether its their first or seventh car, it should just be common sense to try and be a little more environmentally-friendly; we shouldn’t have to be told to turn off the lights we aren’t using, or to buy something that’s cheaper and better for us in the long run; but, unfortunately, that’s not the way it works because most people are selfish in ways that they don’t even think about.
    Wrapping this up, I think this car is a great step in the right direction; every road’s got its bumps and dead-ends between you and your destination, but with time and hard work we can see a brighter, cleaner future for civilian vehicles.
    Let us promote peace, education, and high-technology, for all the world!

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