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Cars running on air still on Tata Motors’ radar

In one of the longest running experiments over alternate fuel development, Tata Motors is said to be keenly pursuing interests in vehicles that run on air.

About seven years ago, the Mumbai-based company had signed a license agreement with Luxembourg-based Motor Development International (MDI) to produce and sell cars that run on air.

Later in 2012, the company declared that it has tested the technology on two of its cars. However, no further guidance was given. 

While the idea of cars running on compressed air is not new, it was deemed unfeasible due to complexities involved such as low engine temperatures. Tata Motors, however, under the blue-sky project, has been working on engines that will run on compressed air and emit air from exhaust pipes.

Speaking to an in-house magazine of the Tatas, Timothy Leverton, president and head, advance and product engineering, Tata Motors said, “This is a long term project and a tricky and challenging one. But these are areas we need to invest in to make sure that we can innovate and manufacture disruptive products in the future”.

Back in 2012, the agreement between Tata Motors and MDI covered two phases of activity, encompassing the technology transfer and proof of the technical concept in the first phase and completing detailed development of the compressed air engine into specific vehicle and stationary applications in the second phase. 

The debut of the air car (christened Airpod) is expected to happen in the second half of 2015 in Hawaii by the US franchisee of MDI, Zero Pollution Motors, headed by entrepreneur Shiva Vencat. For India, however, no deadline is specified yet.

As per details available, a air-powered car which will have a joystick instead of a steering wheel will have the option of seating three adults and a baby. Its tanks can be refilled like a gasoline car by transferring compressed air from a compressed air station. Maximum speed could be be 80km/hr and a range of 200 kms. 

Besides environmentally friendly vehicles, Leverton also said that Tata Motors is focusing very intently on connectivity. “We want to design a car that will fit into the digital eco-system of our consumers. The car will also fit into the traffic systems”. 

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