Tata India: We're Building Compressed-air Cars, This Year

It’s happening. Tata is building a car that runs on the very air we breathe.

Compressed air has been making some inroads in the alternative-fuel universe lately, with compressed-air concepts making waves at auto shows and, more recently, compressed-air bicycles turning heads on the road. Leave to the brave engineers from Tata India (who put the I in BRIC) to take this concept from the test phase to the production phase.

Having developed the Nano (the 58 mpg “world’s least expensive car“) and, more recently, the diminutive Emo EV, Tata is no stranger to alternative thinking – and they’ll need to “think different” to get this thing to capture the hearts and minds of motorists around the world.

It shouldn’t be too hard, though. When Tata first showed their compressed-air concept (which makes use of the AIRpod drivetrain), they claimed their little city car/taxi concept would be good for a max speed of 50-ish mph and an 80 mile range. All that performance comes courtesy of a tank of compressed air that, Tata claims, could be filled by an electric air pump in less than 2 minutes.

The best part? The infrastructure to run and fuel these cars already exists. Don’t believe me?

Go to your local gas station and check out the tire pump. Compressed air, available for about a dollar a minute. $2 = 80 miles. At $4/gallon, that’s a 160 mpg equivalent with ZERO harmful carbon emissions coming from the little Tata’s tailpipe (and you just know, because it’s Tata, it’ll be cheap).

Gotta love that!

If I got the French right (May be a big if?), Tata will have pre-production models on the road before the end of 2012.

Source: Tata, via TechVehi.

Jo Borrás

I've been in the auto industry 1997, and write for a number of blogs in the IM network. You can also find me on Twitter, at my Volvo fansite, out on two wheels, or chasing my kids around Oak Park, IL.