Has India already surpassed the U.S. in clean air (literally) vehicle technology? In a sense, yes, in reality, no.
Tata Automotive company has been for years now talking of a car that runs on… wait for it… compressed air. That’s right, this lovable tiny tot of a car producer has a prototype that runs on compressed air.
But how does a car like that even work? Did you ever build one of those balloon cars as a kid where you would blow up the ballon and let the air out? Well, it’s kind of like that, but a little more complex.
The air inside the Tata concept is actually highly compressed dehydrated air. In order for this to happen an air compressor that runs on electricity is used to pump air into a storage tank where the car can later release the air to move the vehicle. Unfortunately compressed air has a relatively low energy density. In fact, gasoline has 188 times more watts of potential energy per liter compared to compressed air. Factor in that you have to run an electric air compressor to get the air in the vehicle and you probably aren’t doing much in terms of eco friendly alternatives to gasoline (unless of course your air compressor relied strictly on solar or wind power.)
For now Tata has some hurdles to jump through before the Air can really take off. Crash testing of the concept needs to be done, a tank big enough to carry passengers more than 20 miles needs developing and quite honestly the design is a bit unappealing to the eyes. So it’s tata for now, until we meet again. Perhaps next time with a more developed compressed air concept car.