Monday, January 2, 2012

A New Type of Automobile For You and For Me

I Fisk an email circulating on the Interntet:
What is this? Will it be the next big thing? Tata Motors of India thinks so. What will the Oil Companies do to stop it?
The oil companies? Nothing! Absolutely nothing. Everyone blames the oil companies for suppressing every impractical alternative energy source since perpetual motion. If someone ever does develop an energy source that is cheaper, cleaner and more practical than gas or diesel, they will become very rich. The oil companies cannot suppress it. There's too much money to be had. It. Simply. Won't. Happen.
It is an auto engine that runs on air. That's right; air not gas or diesel or electric but just the air around us. Take a look.
It's a cute little engine they have there. But it doesn't run on air. It runs on energy stored in compressed air, from a compressor. Powered by fossil fuel, or nuclear, or hydroelectric. I actually don't think compressed air is a very practical energy storage medium. The energy contained in compressed air is similar to winding up a rubber band; there's nothing particularly efficient about it. Plus, there are thermal losses (PV=nRT).
Tata Motors of India has scheduled the Air Car to hit Indian streets by August 2012
Air powered? Zero emissions? Hardly! You have to charge it from some other energy source, so there are emissions, unless your power grid is hydroelectric.
The Air Car, developed by ex-Formula One engineer Guy N. For Luxembourg-based MDI, uses compressed air to push its engine's pistons and make the car go.
The Air Car, called the "Mini CAT" could cost around 365,757 rupees in India or $8,177 US.
The Mini CAT which is a simple, light urban car, with a tubular chassis, a body of fiberglass that is glued not welded and powered by compressed air. A Microprocessor is used to control all electrical functions of the car. One tiny radio transmitter sends instructions to the lights, turn signals and every other electrical device on the car. Which are not many.
Good thing, too. You won't have much excess energy to waste on electrical accessories.
The temperature of the clean air expelled by the exhaust pipe is between 0-15 degrees below zero, which makes it suitable for use by the internal air conditioning system with no need for gases or loss of power.
So if you need air conditioning, you could recover some of the heat lost after compressing the air. Small consolation...
There are no keys, just an access card which can be read by the car from your pocket. According to the designers, it costs less than 50 rupees per 100 KM, that's about a tenth the cost of a car running on gas. It's mileage is about double that of the most advanced electric car, a factor which makes it a perfect choice for city motorists. The car has a top speed of 105 KM per hour or 60 mph and would have a range of around 300 km or 185 miles between refuels. Refilling the car will take place at adapted gas stations with special air compressors. A fill up will only take two to three minutes and costs approximately 100 rupees and the car will be ready to go another 300 kilometers.
It might be practical as a small runabout. Its primary advantage is that it is small and light. That's how it saves energy; there is no free lunch here. Gas or battery (or rubber band) powered cars of similar size and weight would be as efficient.
This car can also be filled at home with it's on board compressor. It will take 3-4 hours to refill the tank, but it can be done while you sleep.
From the power grid.
Because there is no combustion engine, changing the 1 liter of vegetable oil is only necessary every 50,000 KM or 30,000 miles. Due to its simplicity, there is very little maintenance to be done on this car.
That is an advantage, I'll grant you that.
This Air Car almost sounds too good to be true. We'll see in August. 2012
Not too good to be true. Just true. Light, tiny, limited in power, range and creature comforts.

Speaking of clean, cheap, practical energy sources, I actually believe gasoline and diesel are about as close to perfection as we're ever likely to see, especially with today's computerized engines. There are some possible further improvements on the internal combustion engine (so we don't throw away so much excess heat), but given the number of people using them (literally millions worldwide), the problems are actually remarkably few, and the environmental impact about as low as you could ask.

I'll guaran-damn-tee you that if battery technology improved by the order of magnitude necessary to make it practical, and millions of people started driving electric vehicles (or even hybrids) the environmental damage from manufacturing and disposing of all those batteries would be catastrophic. Much worse than the manifold predicted catastrophes that the watermelons pretend to obsess about for fossil fuel.

The real tragedy here is, the six-stroke engines are estimated to be 40% more efficient and less polluting than conventional engines -- a practical and significant improvement -- but since they're fossil fuel engines, the watermelons don’t like them. And, unlike the oil companies suppressing technology, government can and does. So you won't see President Obama giving grants to improved internal combustion engine designs, only to electric cars, and solar and wind power. Therefore, improved I-C designs languish, under capitalized, and competing against impractical, artificially propped-up "alternatives". Not that I think government should be subsidizing them either; government shouldn't be picking winners and losers at all. That's what people voting with their hard-earned dollars every day -- in a free market -- are best at.


  1. Amazing how mankind is capable of coming up with creative solutions to great problems when left to his own devices. Creative destruction is a miracle to behold and the model our great Country must return to.

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