Air-Powered Cars

As Americans see gas soar to the $4 per gallon range — thanks to the environmentalist assault on energy production — BBC News and Raw Story report that India’s Tata Motors is gearing up to produce cars based on French technology of compressed air.

I have to admit this idea of running cars on compressed air had never occurred to me. You can pump air directly into the car or plug in the internal compressor. Tata is also working on a carbon-compression hybrid that BBC News reports can yield 120 miles per gallon. Clever.

Of course, as BBC also points out, the cars are light-weight and therefore, I suspect, quite a lot more dangerous than the cars to which Americans are accustomed. Still, they might be fine for slower-speed city driving. If they catch on a toll-road might even find it useful to create small-car lanes.

Obviously, compressing air is not free. It requires energy. I’m interested to learn how the Indians plan to compress the air. I’m also interested in what the energy loss is between the first power source and the power of the compressed air.

I wonder whether it might be possible to harness wind to compress air, rather than use wind turbines to generate electricity. (We may never know, because now all the subsidies are going to the turbines.)

A huge problem is that compressed air seems hard to transport. A nuclear generator could power the air compression, but unless we’re talking about new, smaller nuclear plants it seems more effective to transport the electricity rather than the compressed air. That seems more promising for electric cars, if people can ever figure out how to produce better, cheaper batteries. I guess the question, then, is whether it’s more effective to convert electricity to battery charges or to compressed air. And which system promises to provide the longest drives?

Even though the new technology runs into numerous immediate problems, it’s interesting.

The best way to promote new technologies is to cut government spending and taxes, eliminate special-interest pandering, cut controls on production, and generally restore the government to protecting individual rights rather than mismanaging the economy.