Tata Nexon Concept - 2014 Geneva Auto Show
A few years ago, there was a flurry of interest in compressed-air cars--but, forgive the pun, that seemed to deflate quickly.
While a car that runs on air comes with obvious environmental benefits, including zero emissions from the non-existent tailpipe, the technology seemed unworkable for everyday use.
Yet Indian carmaker Tata Motors apparently hasn't given up.
The company plans to work with Luxembourg-based Motor Development International (MDI) to put a compressed air car on sale this year, according to a new report from the Business Standard (via Indian Autos Blog).
zpm airpod 007
The two companies reportedly aim to put a version of MDI's AirPod on sale in Hawaii before the end of 2015, through franchisee Zero Pollution Motors.
The AirPod is a very small vehicle, although it will reportedly seat three adults and one child.
Top speed is estimated at just under 50 mph, the report says, and its onboard tanks will hold enough compressed air for 124 miles of range.
Refilling the tanks will require special compressed-air stations--creating an infrastructure issue that proponents of battery-electric and hydrogen fuel-cell cars will be quite familiar with by now.
MDI previously licensed its compressed-air technology to Swiss company Catecar, which eventually gave up and attempted to develop an electric car instead.
Tata entered the picture around that time, testing prototype air-powered cars in 2012 but seemingly doing little else until now.
Don't expect things to turn around with this latest attempt to put a compressed-air car on sale, though.
zpm airpod 008
Compressed air isn't really dense enough to provide much energy storage, making it difficult to adapt for use in even a very small, very light-weight car.
Battery-electric cars have also become far more common over the past few years.
Whereas five years ago both technologies were still relatively untested, electric cars have since proven themselves in billions of miles of everyday use.
Carmakers have slowly built up support and required infrastructure for battery-electrics, yet they still only represent a very small percentage of the cars on U.S. roads.
Will it be worthwhile to attempt the same thing with compressed air?