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Transportation Technology

Tata Intends To Sell Air-Powered Car In India 398

Posted by timothy
from the wish-my-car-sucked-too dept.
Diggester writes "Tata Motors (an Indian car manufacturer) is changing things up with the first car to run on air, the Airpod. The Airpod's technology was originally created in France at Motor Development International but has since been bought by Tata in hopes of bringing it to the Indian consumer car market. With virtually zero emissions and at the cost of about a penny per kilometer, it is definitely one of the most environmentally and economically friendly vehicles in the world. The tank holds about 175 liters of compressed air that can be filled at special stations or by activating the on-board electric motor to suck air in from the outside. Costing about $10,000, this car could beat out most smart cars from the market." If flying cars aren't available, sucking cars seem like a nice stop-gap.
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Tata Intends To Sell Air-Powered Car In India

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  • by otuz (85014) on Sunday August 26, 2012 @08:04PM (#41132687) Homepage

    ..so when are they going to do it, like, for real?

    • NEVER (Score:3, Interesting)

      by sanman2 (928866)

      Nobody's going to buy that piece of crap. It's a glorified golf cart.
      Even India's poor are already turning up their noses to the Tata Nano, preferring to buy established foreign models.

      I think the Nano is a great benefit to the poor, especially the upcoming diesel model, because it's designed specifically for 3rd world conditions. It even has better ground clearance because of India's pot-holed roads. The only other thing it needs to come with, is a bumper-sticker calling for ruling thug-ocracy to be thrown

      • Re:NEVER (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Nursie (632944) on Sunday August 26, 2012 @08:26PM (#41132817)

        India's poor are too busy sleeping on the street or grazing their goat at the side of the freeway to turn their noses up at anything.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by tmosley (996283)
          Half of India's population is now in the middle class.

          It's about time to throw out the old preconceptions about the rising powers of China and India. They simply aren't true any more.
          • Re:NEVER (Score:5, Informative)

            by Nursie (632944) on Sunday August 26, 2012 @08:57PM (#41132989)

            Are you trying to tell me what I saw with my own eyes?

            I went to India late last year, to multiple cities. I directly observed these things, street sleepers in vast numbers, families living in makeshift shelters at the side of the road, people grazing animals in the central reservations.

            These may be cliches, they may even be preconceptions, but they are very true in modern India.

          • Re:NEVER (Score:5, Insightful)

            by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Sunday August 26, 2012 @09:20PM (#41133121)

            The not middle class half of India's population still makes for a lot of street sleepers.

            Also with a per capita GDP of about 1,500 USD your definition of middle class is pretty low-end.

            • Re:NEVER (Score:5, Informative)

              by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 26, 2012 @10:42PM (#41133489)

              I wish people would stop perpetuating that myth. Middle class has nothing to do with USD anywhere that isn't in the US. Here in China you can lead what is basically an upper class lifestyle on less than $10k USD a year because the cost of living in much of China is that low. I don't get paid in USD and I don't buy things in USD so using that as some sort of measuring stick makes no sense.

              What's more in the US they've deliberately used inflation to pick the pockets of anybody not rich enough to have a sizable portion of their savings in investments.

              • Re:NEVER (Score:5, Insightful)

                by ceoyoyo (59147) on Sunday August 26, 2012 @11:29PM (#41133731)

                The car (supposedly a "glorified golf cart") costs $10,000 (you can convert all the figures into rupees or euros or swiss francs if you want). If the average person makes $1500 / yr, they're probably not going to be able to afford that car, never mind a conventional one. In the west if you're in the "middle class" you usually make rather more than the price of a cheap car per year.

              • Re:NEVER (Score:5, Insightful)

                by Rei (128717) on Sunday August 26, 2012 @11:32PM (#41133753) Homepage

                A good point. People often ask me how my salary in Iceland compares to my last salary in the US, and my answer is usually, in short, "it's irrelevant on its own". The long answer is "it's complicated", followed by a long discussion of the different tax rates, the different compensation structures, the different benefits (company, union, and national), the different cost of living in different regards, and on and on. It's very hard to quantify. It's much easier to just say, "I live reasonably well and enjoy life" or soforth.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Colonel Korn (1258968)

            Half of India's population is now in the middle class.
            It's about time to throw out the old preconceptions about the rising powers of China and India. They simply aren't true any more.

            This is wishful thinking or tautological nonsense. India's average income is under $2k per person per year, and that's a dollar-averaged mean - the median earner makes far, far less. Maybe you're simply defining Indian middle class to be some arbitrary number like "between $500 and $5000 of annual income," but that's rather useless. Instead, let's compare this average income to the $10k cost of the car and see that the half of India's population you declare to be middle class won't be buying many of thes

            • Re:NEVER (Score:5, Insightful)

              by fredprado (2569351) on Sunday August 26, 2012 @11:02PM (#41133583)
              Now compare this with the costs of conventional cars, which they currently buy and you will see the poster you are criticizing is right. Truth is, there is a huge market in India for conventional cars, despite the low average income of its citizens, and conventional cars are more expensive than this.

              The flaw in your analysis is that you forget India Population is just well above a billion people, so even a relatively small percentage of the population is still a lot of people.
          • Overestimation... (Score:5, Informative)

            by bayankaran (446245) on Sunday August 26, 2012 @11:29PM (#41133735) Homepage
            Only about 20% of the Indian population is of anywhere near middle class status.

            The situation varies from state to state - in my state Kerala you can conclude 70% is middle class and Kerala population is on a long term decline (like Japan), health and development indexes are comparable to European nations etc.

            The situation is the opposite in rural Bihar and other big northern states.

            But the 20% officially middle class is a huge number - little less than the population of United States. Still if marketers and consultants conclude they are going to buy plastic crap from China in huge numbers they will be disappointed.

            Western corporations regularly make an entry to India. The first mistake they make - overprice their products and Indian competition kills them on a price point. The second mistake they make is in overestimating the consumption patterns and excess inventory gets piled up - example: original Reebok and NIke shoes end up sold on the footpath.

            But I have a fascination for the management and MBAs running these organizations. They are so clueless the errors they make are laughably stupid. Compared to them George Bush was a genius.
          • Re:NEVER (Score:4, Informative)

            by cold fjord (826450) on Sunday August 26, 2012 @11:52PM (#41133883)

            Half of India's population is now in the middle class.

            It's about time to throw out the old preconceptions about the rising powers of China and India. They simply aren't true any more.

            That doesn't appear to be true. Indeed, the trend appears to be in the opposite direction.

            India income inequality doubles in 20 years, says OECD [bbc.co.uk]

            The OECD says India has the highest number of poor in the world.

            Some 42% of its 1.21 billion people live on less than $1.25 a day.

          • Re:NEVER (Score:4, Interesting)

            by donscarletti (569232) on Monday August 27, 2012 @01:32AM (#41134295)

            Just because a population is in the tens of millions does not make for an appreciable proportion of the total when dealing with China and India.

            Beijing (where I live), Shanghai and Shenzhen are rich and up to developed standards. What you would find in the heartland of Henan, Sichuan, Hunan, Hubei would be considered to be very poor. What you would find in the mountains of Tibet and Guizhou however would simply shock most westerners. I have not been to India, but it's HDI is far below China's.

          • by emm-tee (23371)

            I don't disagree with your comment per se, but I think you missed the point of Nursie's comment.

            sanman2 said "India's poor" are "turning their noses up" at the Nano.

            However, 32.7% of Indians live in poverty [wikipedia.org]. Because of this, Nursie rightly pointed out that "India's poor" probably have bigger concerns than which car to buy.

            If sanman2 had said "members of India's lower middle class are already turning their noses up at the Nano" there would be no argument here.

            I have been to India several times in the last

      • Re:NEVER (Score:5, Insightful)

        by HangingChad (677530) on Sunday August 26, 2012 @10:02PM (#41133325) Homepage

        Nobody's going to buy that piece of crap. It's a glorified golf cart.

        And you'd be wrong. At 100+ miles to a charge, you could use it anywhere you could use a scooter.

        A glorified golf cart would be all a lot of people would need. If it can go 45 mph, you can drive it on city streets.

        If they could bump the speed up to 55 and extend the range a bit, it would be a lot more useful, but they'll sell at the functionality they have now.

        • Re:NEVER (Score:5, Interesting)

          by EdIII (1114411) on Sunday August 26, 2012 @10:36PM (#41133467)

          I would probably buy one, and I live in the US. It would depend on how much it costs to run the pump and get a full tank.

          Back in 2000 I was driving a gas guzzling huge SUV. When gas was consistently cheap it was never a real consideration for me. That changed in a hurry with the gas prices. Bought several Priuses since then, and lately I have reorganized my life so that I have to travel dramatically less.

          In the last two years I walk to the grocery store. I buy less food (only what I can carry), have lost considerably weight, and eat better.

          My work commute is 5-8 minutes. No problems doing that in a little car like that, especially if it is zero emissions, good for the environment, and cheap to operate.

          I tend to stick close to home, ride a bike for long distances, and generally have changed my spending habits and how I relax. This kind of car actually fits to my lifestyle, and I don't think I would be the only one. Betting there is a market in the US as well.

          • by leuk_he (194174) on Monday August 27, 2012 @04:47AM (#41134933) Homepage Journal

            Wikipedia already has a nice article about compressed air cars: [wikipedia.org]

            -It is safe.
            -Exhaust from car is zero. Electricity for compressor can be made efficient.

            Disadvantage:
            -compressed air is a low energy storage compared to other.
            -Long storage times, you will need a compressor at home and load it for 4 hours or something like that.
            -Needs heat to expand air. Might run very inefficient in cold climate. (on the plus: free airco!)

            A hybrid compressed air car might be a very good option however. Notice that a traditional combustion engine is a good compressor. Maybe tata is even creating a hybrid, they licensed the tech (see wikipedia again).

            • by drinkypoo (153816)

              Disadvantage:
              -compressed air is a low energy storage compared to other.
              -Long storage times, you will need a compressor at home and load it for 4 hours or something like that.
              -Needs heat to expand air. Might run very inefficient in cold climate. (on the plus: free airco!)

              Low energy storage is real, and a real drawback. It's shared with EVs, though, which have long storage times. Air cars do not have a long storage time, the appeal of the tech as opposed to EVs is that they recharge very quickly. You have a tank at home and it fills up when you're not looking (whenever energy is available/cheap.) Windmill-based storage stations out and about can fill themselves (with a tank in their center) when the wind blows and provide rapid refills. MDI even proposed using the technology

      • by kryzx (178628) *

        Nobody's going to buy that piece of crap. It's a glorified golf cart.

        Well, you're right that it's not a car. But it also not a golf cart.
        No, it's an autorickshaw [pbase.com], and (if this is not vaporware) they will buy it because there are already probably a hundred million of them in India, home of Tata Motors.

    • Recycled CNN content (Score:5, Informative)

      by michaelmalak (91262) <michael@michaelmalak.com> on Sunday August 26, 2012 @08:10PM (#41132723) Homepage

      All this is is a blogger recycling a CNN YouTube from 2010 to get some clicks (worked astoundingly well!). And according to Wikipedia, it's been vapor since 2000.

    • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdotNO@SPAMhackish.org> on Sunday August 26, 2012 @08:30PM (#41132847)

      They aren't, because the idea doesn't really work [iop.org], though pneumatic hybrids could have some future in other forms (according to this paper).

    • by NotQuiteReal (608241) on Sunday August 26, 2012 @08:30PM (#41132855) Journal
      There are "problems" [wikipedia.org]...
  • by WolphFang (1077109) <mjoyner AT vbservices DOT net> on Sunday August 26, 2012 @08:06PM (#41132697) Homepage
    This is not an original concept! SEE: http://www.aircaraccess.com/history.htm [aircaraccess.com] Brief quote: For half a century the air-powered locomotive was a serious contender for the top spot in transportation because of its obvious advantages: simplicity, safety, economy, and cleanliness. Air engines were built first during a period of experimental daily use in metropolitan street transit during the 1880s and 1890s, by companies organized by inventors and air car advocates such as General Herman Haupt. In New York City a building-sized 1500 horsepower compressing station was constructed for the use of the transit locomotives that were being tested there on daily routes. Air-powered mining locomotives were manufactured routinely by steam locomotive companies. Until the 1930s and 1940s the air mule had no serious competition from electric or internal combustion engines in mining because the heat and spark made them unsafe in closed-in and gassy places. The term "air engine" disappeared from engineering textbooks between 1931 when William Lawrence Saunders died, and the end of the second world war. Gas engines had been perfected, the power of the oil industry was established, and gas was cheap.
    • And air pressure storage is notoriously inefficient. How does it compare to fuel cells though?

      • by icebike (68054) * on Sunday August 26, 2012 @10:06PM (#41133339)

        And air pressure storage is notoriously inefficient. How does it compare to fuel cells though?

        And how can it be non-polluting when some external compressor is required to compress all this air?
        It seems that India is having troubles keeping the electricity flowing these days, so how do they propose to power the compressor plants?

        Is this another exercise in externalizing any environmental impact, and then pronouncing your product "Green" with great fanfare?

        Its a lot like electric cars in general, powered by something, just not something we sell. The pollution will be 3 states away. You don't need to worry about it.

        There is no way to compress air in the quantity needed other than by using fissile and fossil fuels or wind and solar.
        But we don't have enough of those to handle our houses and our factories as it is, especially in India.

        • how do they propose to power the compressor plants?

          You've never eaten curry, have you?

  • of course! (Score:5, Funny)

    by korgitser (1809018) on Sunday August 26, 2012 @08:13PM (#41132751)

    ... everybody loves inflatable tatas!

  • by Dzimas (547818) on Sunday August 26, 2012 @08:13PM (#41132753)
    The problem is that electricity (or petrol) has to be used to compress the air. And 65% of the electricity in India is generated by burning coal or natural gas. So, yeah, let's burn fossil fuel to run an inefficient air compressor to run an inefficient vehicle. The *only* way that compressed air motors make sense in cars is if you want to reduce local emission levels in a densely populated urban area.
    • If I pay $3.50 in gas, I get to go 20 miles. About 50 kilometers (VERY roughly, but gas prices fluctuate so much, the cost is close enough).

      If this thing is a penny a kilometer, that would be 50 cents.

      What's worse: Burning a gallon of gasoline -- which also has to be electrically pumped -- or just the electricity to pump. 50 cents worth of electricity, if that. (Some of that money would be filling station overhead, and not just electricity.)

      Or maybe we should just give up progress until someone comes up with free unlimited energy?

    • Actually, by concentrating the pollution to a "choke point" (ha ha) you make it easier to provide clean power to the process.
    • by perpenso (1613749) on Sunday August 26, 2012 @08:38PM (#41132897)

      The problem is that electricity (or petrol) has to be used to compress the air. And 65% of the electricity in India is generated by burning coal or natural gas.

      To be fair you need to consider the energy used to refine and deliver the gasoline/diesel, and any emissions in the process.

      One nice thing about electricity is that even when "dirty" sources are used for generation the emissions are centralized so that there is more opportunity for capture and sequestration.

    • by mark-t (151149)
      Consider, however, in centralized facilities, it can be easier to implement stricter emission controls, and possibly even produce energy more efficiently than it is in an inherently mobile platform such as an automobile. You're probably right that they'd be using fossil fuels of some kind to compress the air, but that doesn't mean there wouldn't be advantages to centralizing that aspect of things. Plus, of course... there's no inherent requirement that fossil fuel must be used to generate the necessary e
    • The problem is not electricity or petrol. The problem is something capable of rotating an air compressor with sufficient torque. A windmill could do it... A steam engine could do it... a man in a treadmill could do it...

      Spec your problems more carefully in future.

    • If you have a large enough supply of moving water, you could build turbines and tie them directly to the compressors. Or i guess even wind turbines, or a bunch of people on a treadmill :)

      Even if you used electricity, you can generate that cleanly and not require coal or NG. Sure, clean is not as efficient, but just saying that they are not your ONLY option.

    • I think the point is cheap rather than "green" (and really, cheap matters a heck of a lot more than "green").

      With gas at 3.50 per gallon and 20 MPG (about 32 KM/G) you end up with a cost of about 10 cents per kilometer. If you can make a reliable car that will go a kilometer on a penny that is a significant savings. Especially if the car itself is cheap like most Indian cars.
    • by c0lo (1497653)

      And they're going to compress the air with??

      Why... pedaling of course. It makes a good business case for using the lower class to power the cars of the middle class (the upper class will continue to use oil powered cars) .
      And also a boon for fast-food joints: cheap and rich "fuel" for the "pedallers" - I tell ye, US should try it instead of marching on the "trickle economy". Just imagine to get paid for actually exercising at the gym.

  • by slimjim8094 (941042) <[slashdot3] [at] [justconnected.net]> on Sunday August 26, 2012 @08:14PM (#41132761)

    It's an interesting idea, but they don't say anything about what that 175 liters gets you in terms of distance or power. The onboard pump is interesting (and necessary IMHO) but India's power infrastructure may not be up for the task of hundreds of thousands of cars all pumping away... if they're targeting cities, or they can get these filling stations everywhere, it might be alright.

    The real problem with all these compressed air vehicles is the diabatic nature of compressing air. When you compress it, you generate a huge amount of heat that's hard to use and slows down the filling process (since the pressures are higher than normal, which will be problematic for the service station idea), but when you expand it (for power) you need to re-heat the air or else your efficiency goes way down since super-cold air doesn't have much volume. That's why they immerse SCUBA tanks in water while filling. If they figured out how to minimize that problem (maybe they use it slowly enough that it's not an issue?), they should sell a lot of them. TFA doesn't have anything suggesting that they have, though... so I'm skeptical.

  • Very strange (Score:3, Informative)

    by fustakrakich (1673220) on Sunday August 26, 2012 @08:30PM (#41132851) Journal

    Your search - airpod site:tata.com - did not match any documents.

  • $10,000 (Score:3, Informative)

    by OldSport (2677879) on Sunday August 26, 2012 @08:31PM (#41132859)

    Hindi for "far more money than 95% of the population will see in their lifetime".

  • by ewg (158266) on Sunday August 26, 2012 @08:34PM (#41132879)

    Neat, a car that can run on fumes--indefinitely!

  • by pubwvj (1045960) on Sunday August 26, 2012 @08:44PM (#41132921)

    These are not zero emissions, not even close. They burn petroleum, coal, use nuclear or something else to compress the air. The air is merely a storage medium for the energy. This is all a marketing lie.

  • How are they going to make it spontaneously combust?
  • by el_flynn (1279) on Sunday August 26, 2012 @09:01PM (#41133009) Homepage

    Some details on the specifications, range etc of the Airpod can be found here [www.mdi.lu], but some of the stats are in French.

    Also, Tata originally signed the agreement [tatamotors.com] in 2007. Five year old news?

    Lastly, from the MDI website about the Airpod [www.mdi.lu]: This latest version of AirPod... [has] a base consisting of a composite sandwich of fiberglass and polyurethane... [and a] a cast aluminium frame. More details from that link.

  • by PerlHeadJax (614572) on Sunday August 26, 2012 @09:01PM (#41133015)
    Bart Simpson: I didn't think it was physically possible, but this both sucks and blows.

    Appropriately, from the episode "Screaming Yellow Honkers".
  • The government doesn't want you to know about it. It runs on WATER, man!

  • Ya, by the CAR, but what about where you are getting the air?

    I suppose it would work in a small town commute, but i think id rather have a battery powered car instead.

    • by Lehk228 (705449)
      if the tanks can be made reasonably crash safe, manufacturing a pressure vessel would be much more sustainable than chemical batteries
  • What makes me most skeptical is that there is no mention of this vehicle on the Tata [tatamotors.com] web site. If they are making it one would expect it to be on their web site.

  • by FreakerSFX (256894) on Sunday August 26, 2012 @09:34PM (#41133211)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Airpod [wikipedia.org]

    Let's assume that Wikipedia is accurate here...

    220kg of Poly-urethane and fiberglass - even with the range they claim (which is good) this vehicle will never be viable outside of 3rd world markets. It's never going to pass a safety test because it's a deathtrap. Still it may find a niche market and I am a fan of non-petroleum concepts.

  • by lophophore (4087) on Sunday August 26, 2012 @10:08PM (#41133347) Homepage

    They are so getting sued by Apple...

    They can't call it air* or *pod. Oh no.

    "One Billyon Dollars"

  • The power to run those air compressors has to come from some place.

  • Well, someone's been trolled. MDI is linked to IndraNet here in New Zealand, and these buffoons have been scamming investors for years by bringing out the Next Big Thing every couple of years. Mesh Networks, the nGen Engine (try to figure out how it works!), and air cars. Vapour central. As far as I know, they have never actually made a product or earned a dime, but that hasn't kept them from spewing PR crap and soliciting suc.. - I mean, investors. Run. Away.
  • by CodeBuster (516420) on Sunday August 26, 2012 @11:59PM (#41133917)
    While the use of a pneumatic air system to recover energy from braking for use in subsequent starts does have some merit in a hybrid configuration, the idea of a vehicle powered completely by compressed air has been very thoroughly discredited in the published research papers. Yes, it can be done but it's terribly inefficient; almost no other vehicle is less efficient than compressed air, even battery powered vehicles are better. The wiki article on compressed air cars has a comprehensive list of their rather substantial disadvantages [wikipedia.org]. Really the only situations where air cars are even considered are those where sparks or burning of fuels make both internal combustion and electric too dangerous and where their limited range and power are not substantial disadvantages. As one might imagine, these circumstances occur rarely and only in specialized situations (most notably in underground coal mines). Bottom line: air cars are simply not competitive as general purpose vehicles and basically never will be due to the laws of thermodynamics and ideal gas among others. Those who buy an air car without understanding these things are likely to be very disappointed with their vehicle's performance. I predict many angry Indian air car owners complaining about how they were ripped off and lied to by the green marketeers who said whatever it took to make the sale.
  • by sjbe (173966) on Monday August 27, 2012 @08:29AM (#41135595)

    With virtually zero emissions...

    Bull. Compressing air requires power and lots of it. The emissions might not be coming from the car itself but there will be plenty of emissions. Plus this still has the infrastructure network problem. Even if the drive technology is feasible (and I have my doubts on that) you still need a sufficiently large network of pumping stations to make using the vehicles feasible. It can be done but I doubt it will be.

  • by slashmydots (2189826) on Monday August 27, 2012 @08:59AM (#41135803)
    The best air-powered card in the world can get something like 20 miles to a tank. If this one is claiming it's 100+, it's lying. That means running the onboard compressor a lot. That means horrible fuel to movement ratios because of one added layer between engine and moving. They're going to be loud, fuel guzzling pieces of crap.
  • by DarthVain (724186) on Monday August 27, 2012 @10:27AM (#41136411)

    All cars with perhaps the exception of an all electric car run on "air".

    Try running a car without air and see what happens. "But no, a car uses Petrol for fuel!" Actually a car uses more air for fuel than Petrol. A car uses combustion (for the most part) to generate kenetic energy, and your ain't going to get a whole lot of combustion without air.

    Yes I am just being pedantic, and if I bothered to read the article I realize they are probably talking about compressed air or something.

    Make it steam and huge flywheels to satisfy my steampunk craving and you have a deal!

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