Compressed Air Fueled Car Blows into Production

It sounds too good to be true: a zero emissions car that runs on 100% natural compressed air–no petroleum, alternative fuels, or batteries required. But the OneFlowAIR is one of five actual vehicles soon to be released by MDI (Motor Development International), which has spent the last ten years developing the compressed air technology found in this cute, futuristic little car.

According to the company, the OneFlowAIR’s compressed air tanks can be refilled in just two minutes–at home or while driving down the road.  It uses mono-energy compressed-air for city driving, and a dual-energy hybrid engine on the open road which can make use of gas, diesel, biodiesel, alcohol, or vegetable oils, in addition to compressed air.  The car boasts a 560 mile road range with the dual-energy engine, 62 miles with mono-energy.

image via EcoTechDaily

image via EcoTechDaily

Coming in at just over $5,000 for the basic version and just under $8,000 for the “more complete” version, this is one of those cute little eco cars that is also economical enough to appeal to the emerging car-buying public of the developing world, which bodes will for its future. It’s not for sale yet, but if the OneFlowAIR sounds like your next ride, you can fill out an ‘Intention to Purchase’ form on the company’s website.

OneFlowAIR [via EcoTechDaily]

Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.

    • Robert M

      I want one.

    • sdpark

      What is the air compression level used? And are the tanks double walled?

    • geo brecke

      MDI has been offering to take investor’s money for years.. And all the while they’ve been ready for production according to many articles like this one..

      • Zer0Sum

        They had to fight French legislation first. Tata motors has a large stake in the company so expect them to be rolled out in India first.

        • geo brecke

          If it happens, I’ll make a proper apology and send you flowers.. There are CAES (compressed air energy storage systems) worthy of study, the best are in Germany and USA, they rely on existing waste heat, they use (lots) of energy when demand is low, and sell it at the peaks of demand. Otherwise it wouldn’t pay..

    • this is just up my alley!

    • Bryan K Bates

      Did you know that it would perfect for the one person driver going to work. The only drawback would the size and safety. It looks to small to be safe for one and people want bigger cars now for safety reasons

      • Andrew Micallef

        Have you seen Smart Cars? Those things are death traps. This one seems to have a little more area to it, shouldn’t tip over or hurt the driver if it were involved in an accident

        • QKodiak

          Totally right. The rigid safety cell keeps the car intact while the people inside die because there’s no crumple zone to absorb the energy.

    • RadPower
      May 2012 … in the coming years…looking forward to seeing it
      eventually in India…wonder whether if a versoin would ever be made in
      the USA…

    • phor11

      Looks like a pretty fantastic little city car.
      Now they just need to ramp it up and produce a mid-size model that would open up a MUCH larger market.

    • Lori Fischer

      Innovative improvements in technology has been amazing in my life time. I look to the future as being even more amazing. We won’t have to settle for the same old dirty fuel choice that are only offered now.

    • Alessandro Benedetti

      Hi, where to buy in Europe????

    • Gordon

      I feel like I’m missing something here. Where is the compressed air coming from?

      In both my undergrad and graduate level thermodynamics classes we were shown how it takes 7 times the amount of energy to compress air, than you can get out of compressed air in the form of work. The proof was rather simple, relied on the ideal gas law, and as I recall it even showed up on exam at some point.

      As an energy auditor, helping manufactures reduce their energy use, the reduction of compressed air in their manufacturing process was almost always included in our recommendations. The same analysis I mentioned above was included in the report we submitted to our clients.

      Yet I keep seeing articles about vehicles that run on compressed air, or plans to use compressed air for utility scale energy storage. There are a lot better ways to store energy, with much higher efficiencies than 15%. I believe charging and discharging a Li-ion battery is closer to 80% efficient.

      Is there some way to compress air that I don’t know about, where the analysis I am referring to does not apply?

      • marvin nubwaxer

        i didn’t see where it said it was free to operate it.

      • Zer0Sum

        They are making use of thermal expansion to increase the energy potential of the output airflow. However the main benefit is not the reduced energy cost of charging the compressed air tank even though it is still a lot more efficient than burning petrol. The main benefit is a 2 minute recharge. That makes the cars viable as an alternative to petrol fuels especially around a congested city. Even if we use coal for the electricity. That still means more efficient use of available energy resources and no additional pollution while driving the car. It’s not perfect but it is better. If the electricity came from wind, hydro, thermal or solar then it is very competitive.

        It’s a pity that they can’t influence the market to install charging facilities at every gas station then they could ditch the ICE and put in bigger air tanks to give longer range. They would need to install their own recharge network to get anywhere. They pretty much face the same problem as Tesla. They just don’t have the funds to make things happen as quickly. They are doing a pretty good job considering the odds are stacked against them.

      • geo brecke

        Gordon, you are exactly right, there’s no way this works, and you need be energy ignorant to think it would. Now read Susan Defreitas’ credentials, she is one of many liberal bozo women who attempt to hang nonsense articles all over the WEB.. (just like this one). Then there’s the Moron who replied to my post… no one who got out of 8th grade science class with a C- would buy into this crap. I do believe there’s a purpose for these posts.. and that is to get people to believe in magic.

      • SamuelMartin

        Check out the Trompe air compressor. mind-blowing

    • Arthur De Haan

      How energy efficient are the compressed air tanks produced?

    • reidintransit

      Does it come with a bike pump in case you run out of air in traffic?

    • Limon Gelato

      I have my doubts as to the safety and economy in “refueling.” While I don’t doubt that you can transfer compressed air from one vessel to another “empty” one in under under two minutes, the volume and compression required has to come from somewhere.

      A 4500 psi compressor will set you back three grand, or you can use a standard gas or electric compressor (delivering a steady 85 psi) with an auxiliary electric “shoebox compressor.” About a grand, Both are loud, and will require maintenance, (the latter continuous.) You will also need a water separator, ideally a desiccant tower, and the purchasing or leasing of storage tanks. Having those 4500 psi tanks around requires some safety measures as well..

      The cost to run either compressor setup detracts from the environmental appeal and cost savings equations, as would having tanks delivered. If electric power and your labor is cheap enough, you could conceivably come out ahead vs.a Toyota Corolla, but compressing air isn’t efficient with regard to work in, work out.

      High pressure tanks in your garage (or more probably outside of your garage?) Not so good. If you live in an apartment what then? Should one of those bottles happen to fall…and rupture the valve…voila instant compressed air fueled vehicle! Now you have two of them, but the second is uncontrollable. And you might also have an insurance claim, or maybe a lawsuit against you.

      The company website is of little help in this area as I cannot find their “refuel” solution. Cool old idea, but not practical unless high pressure, non-polluting gas can be captured from the earth, rather than created with fuel.

      • SamuelMartin

        How a bout isothermically compressing air using waterways and gravity, as in the Trompe air compressor?

        How is a compressed air tank any less safe than a compressed propane tank? we have those everywhere and they’re safe enough for widespread public use…

    • QKodiak

      Compressed are isn’t found free in nature. It takes tremendous amounts of energy to compress air to usable levels for a compressed air engine. Also, there is a lot of heat energy produced when compressing air that is simply wasted when rapid filling. This is a really inefficient idea. You can’t defy the laws of physics.

      • SamuelMartin

        Have a look at the Trompe air compression system. Isothermic compression with no energy input beyond building the system once and some very low maintenance.

        • QKodiak

          You can’t beat physics dude. It takes much more energy to compress the air than you will ever get out of it. And why do they have to make these things look SO ugly?

          • SamuelMartin

            It’s all about physics. The energy needed to compress the air is provided by gravity feed: water from a stream falling down a shaft. Look up the design of a trompe. I agree these cars are candidates for the Pimp my Ride show, not exactly fast & furious material.

            • QKodiak

              Yes I know. I looked it up. You have to pump the water up to the top in order for the water to fall and compress the air. The extra weight and bulk of the system versus an electric compressor makes it undesirable for home use. Apparently it’s good for using in mines which is about the only place you’ll find a Trompe system. It’s an interesting system, but there’s a reason we don’t use them very much today.

            • SamuelMartin

              Ideally, the trompe is installed using an actual existing stream or river. It is a lot of earthwork to install – to divert or dam the stream during construction – but it pays off greatly afterwards. You can even build a series of trompe systems and have the water fall through the first, come out the other end and fall in the next one… Bonus, it hydrogenates the water. Of course it can never be “perfect” nor can it be the sole source of energy, but in the context of finding energy sources to phase out of the fossil fuel era (while still driving cars), it’s a very interesting direction.

    • SamuelMartin

      Isothermic air compression with a Trompe needs nothing but a waterway and gravity once the underground system is set up. Endless compressed air as long as the water flows.

    • SamuelMartin

      I want one.