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Published on June 25th, 2009 | by Christopher DeMorro

Edmunds Inside Line Gets Behind The Wheel Of The AIRpod

June 25th, 2009 by  
 

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While the MDI AIRpod is hardly “new news”, nary an auto journalist has managed to get behind the joystick (no steering wheel here) to test the viability of this odd-yet-innovative vehicle. In case you haven’t heard, the MDI AIRpod is a concept vehicle designed to run solely on compressed air as means of transportation, though no working models had been released to the press. But as the AIRpod nears actual production, MDI has begun inviting journalists to take a whirl in a prototype model, and Edmunds Inside Line was first in the queae it seems.

The AIRpod they drove was only a prototype, so you can take from their impressions what you will. But, just having the AIRpod on the road is a major first step towards actual commercialization of what was once just a wacky concept.

The first thing you might notice is that the AIRpod doesn’t much appear to look like a car. You enter through the front of the pod via a hatch that opens up-and-over the vehicle. As I mentioned earlier, you steer with a joystick rather than steering. The concept originally also used the joystick for propulsion, but the system proved awkward so instead there are small pedals for acceleration and stopping. Though there is seating for four full-sized adults, three of them have to enter through a rear hatch and sit on a rear-facing bench seat. You also probably noticed that instead of the typical four-wheel layout, the AIRpod is set up more like a tricycle. Everything is designed to conserve weight, and the AIRpod manages to tip the scales at just 485 pounds. I have friends who weigh more than that!

By now you are probably wondering: how does it run? Well first, here are some stats. Using an engine modified to run on only compressed air, the MDI makes a whooping 6 horsepower and 11 ft-lbs of torque. So not only do I have friends who weigh more, but I’ve used lawnmowers with more horsepower as well (I used to do commercial landscaping, very fun stuff). With one person in the AIRpod, the top speed hovers somewhere around 30 mph (production cars should go as fast as 50 mph, according to MDI), faster than any of my lawn mowers for sure. It also has a range of between 90 and 125 miles, according to MDI, which to me is by far the most impressive stat. Did I mention it runs only on air?

I will let you read Edmunds for their driving impressions of the prototype, because MDI still has plenty of improvements to add to the AIRpod. Things like air conditioning (those silly circular windows don’t open), sound dampening (the engine is under the seats) and a softer suspension. But this may just be the revolutionary concept that becomes a common sight on city streets, as the 2,900 psi air tanks can be filled in around two minutes. For comparisons sake, most hydrogen concepts have tanks with around 10,000 psi; not something you want to be sitting on in a serious accident.

MDI estimates that the AIRpod would cost around just a penny-per-mile to operate, and it has already begun leasing them for trial to Air France and KLM airlines as people and cargo movers. Further, the $8,340 starting price could be halved by the time tax and green-car incentives are taken into account, making it quite cost effective. There are plans for the AIRpod to begin testing over here in the U.S. as well, though when and where, I don’t know.

Cool stuff, and I certainly hope to hear more about it in the coming months.

Source: Edmunds Inside Line

Photos: MDI Enterprises





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About the Author

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.



  • We also drove the prototype platform and were pleasantly surprised with it. It’s different and unique and maybe just what the industry needs, new blood.

    As far as the concept behind the manufacturing, we feel it would be a boost for third world countries and might also alleviate many problems our countries are facing now, such as pollution and high prices due to outdated business models.

    If we can find a way to efficiently compress air, and why not in a green way, then these cars will be perfect for fleets and city dwellers.

    The Electricnick.com team.

  • Charlie

    The only published test of range of an MDI car showed it running out of air after less than 5 miles.

    Does the prototype have a tank pressure gauge? Were you able to see how fast it fell as you drove? This would give an indication of what operating range the vehicle might really have.

    There have been many videos of MDI prototypes where a pressure gauge is shown, but it has always been the 0 to 30 bar pressure that is applied to the engine, rather than the 300 or 350 bar (4500psi) pressure that the tank starts off with.

  • We also drove the prototype platform and were pleasantly surprised with it. It’s different and unique and maybe just what the industry needs, new blood.

    As far as the concept behind the manufacturing, we feel it would be a boost for third world countries and might also alleviate many problems our countries are facing now, such as pollution and high prices due to outdated business models.

    If we can find a way to efficiently compress air, and why not in a green way, then these cars will be perfect for fleets and city dwellers.

    The Electricnick.com team.

  • Charlie

    The only published test of range of an MDI car showed it running out of air after less than 5 miles.

    Does the prototype have a tank pressure gauge? Were you able to see how fast it fell as you drove? This would give an indication of what operating range the vehicle might really have.

    There have been many videos of MDI prototypes where a pressure gauge is shown, but it has always been the 0 to 30 bar pressure that is applied to the engine, rather than the 300 or 350 bar (4500psi) pressure that the tank starts off with.

  • Phil

    You know what they should do with the Airpod? Make it more vertical so it has more rear storage, and put up “rent” booths, so if you don’t have a car but you need to go buy something like an air conditioner unit, some table, a painting, whatever, you just go up to it, use your credit card or some such, and rent it, then bring it back.

  • Phil

    You know what they should do with the Airpod? Make it more vertical so it has more rear storage, and put up “rent” booths, so if you don’t have a car but you need to go buy something like an air conditioner unit, some table, a painting, whatever, you just go up to it, use your credit card or some such, and rent it, then bring it back.

  • I,ve been following mdi for some time and if they can get it to us at a fair price.think about it will clean the air cool the air and with cab co. taxies shuttles help slow green house gases maybe even cool down our big citys just a thought. IT,S ALL GOOD. william eaglebear

  • MeMySelfandYou

    Anyone know if the oil companies have made an offer to buy this idea out yet, joking aside though this as in all system that needs another form of power in order of driving it, it is a well known fact that burning one fuel to produce another is on the whole very wastefull to the whole.

    A good way to produce an energy from another is that of wind power, during the off peak periods, the inhabitants of Shetland are making off peak hydrogen

    instead of pumping it back into the national grid, so they get the best of both worlds.

    O Sole Mio is the best place to get the power we need every day there is enough sunlight to produce enough pwer fot the whole planet 200 times and we are leting it pass us by every day.

  • MeMySelfandYou

    Anyone know if the oil companies have made an offer to buy this idea out yet, joking aside though this as in all system that needs another form of power in order of driving it, it is a well known fact that burning one fuel to produce another is on the whole very wastefull to the whole.

    A good way to produce an energy from another is that of wind power, during the off peak periods, the inhabitants of Shetland are making off peak hydrogen

    instead of pumping it back into the national grid, so they get the best of both worlds.

    O Sole Mio is the best place to get the power we need every day there is enough sunlight to produce enough pwer fot the whole planet 200 times and we are leting it pass us by every day.

  • Charlie

    Contrary to what the article says, the Air France KLM tests of the Airpod have NOT yet started.

    MDI continues it’s unbroken record of never delivering a single vehicle, to anybody, anywhere in the world.

    The latest guess by MDI is that the Spring 2009 tests of the AirPod by Air France will start in January 2010.

    Production, as it has been since 2000, will start “next year”.

  • Charlie

    Contrary to what the article says, the Air France KLM tests of the Airpod have NOT yet started.

    MDI continues it’s unbroken record of never delivering a single vehicle, to anybody, anywhere in the world.

    The latest guess by MDI is that the Spring 2009 tests of the AirPod by Air France will start in January 2010.

    Production, as it has been since 2000, will start “next year”.

  • Rolf Knudsen

    The concept is great. Repairs and service can be performed with current tools and practical experience. The energy, compressed air, can be produced locally, anywhere. Steers, cows, dogs, people – can all be harnessed and power a compression unit. Initial production and storage can be powered by solarcells, wind, water, turnstiles, waves, whatever. The shipping industri will suffer, as will oil supported economies.

    But, it is not the answer to all transportation needs. But, for millions, most in cash-poor economies, will be able to get a reliable transport system with few currency issues.

    Much better than batteri. Maybe not viable tomorrow, but it’s time has arrived….

  • Rolf Knudsen

    The concept is great. Repairs and service can be performed with current tools and practical experience. The energy, compressed air, can be produced locally, anywhere. Steers, cows, dogs, people – can all be harnessed and power a compression unit. Initial production and storage can be powered by solarcells, wind, water, turnstiles, waves, whatever. The shipping industri will suffer, as will oil supported economies.

    But, it is not the answer to all transportation needs. But, for millions, most in cash-poor economies, will be able to get a reliable transport system with few currency issues.

    Much better than batteri. Maybe not viable tomorrow, but it’s time has arrived….

  • I think this would revolutionize cars and it’s a big help to the environment too. Wish we all thought about this long ago and not wait for global warming to happen before we do something.I hope the price is affordable,so everybody can benefit from it.

  • I think this would revolutionize cars and it’s a big help to the environment too. Wish we all thought about this long ago and not wait for global warming to happen before we do something.I hope the price is affordable,so everybody can benefit from it.

    • As we approach the end of 2010, the Airpod still has not gone into production.

      As MDI has told us almost every year since 2000, production will start “next year”.

  • Charlie

    It is now May 2012, the Airpod still has not gone into production.

    As MDI has told us almost every year since 2000, production will start “next year”.

    Amazingly, there appear to be people that believe Guy Negre and MDI.

  • Pingback: Tata India: We’re Building Compressed-air Cars, This Year()

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