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A car that runs on compressed air, emitting only a breeze of fresh air might seem like a dream, but it's the latest invention of French engineer Guy Negre and should enter the market under the name of Motor Development International (MDI) by the beginning of 2010.|
Guy Negre, a former Formula one motor racing engineer, strongly believes he is introducing tomorrow's car on the market and says with uncertain oil prices and increasing pressure on carmakers to improve the fuel efficiency of their vehicles, the time seems right to offer a new, clean alternative.
"Some experts say there are 400,000 deaths in Europe, due to traffic pollution. So our ways with cars in cities will have to change completely, so we will need clean cars, I think one day or another, polluting cars will be banned from cities, which means there will be only electric cars left, and ours", said Guy Negre, CEO of Motor Development International (MDI).
According to Negre, his engine is twice as efficient as regular cars, using up to 60 percent of its capacity, and offers a zero-pollution vehicle suitable for urban driving.
Negre's compressed air engine uses pressurized air to move the pistons. The engine emits only fresh air out of an almost frozen exhaust pipe.
The bottles of compressed air -- similar to those used by divers -- can be filled up at service stations in several minutes.
The latest versions of the cars include a fuel engine option to extend the car's range when not in reach of a special power plug or service station.
Tata, India's largest carmaker, concluded a deal in 2007, investing 20 million euros ($29.4 million) to buy the rights to MDI's technology.
MDI has already protected their car with some 50 patents and will start producing their own at industrial level this year, to enter the European market by the beginning of 2010.
Aiming to produce light, thus less fuel consuming and less polluting, MDI use composite materials for their Airpod vehicle, which will weigh no more than 330 kilos (727.5 lb).
But experts at the Swiss Polytechnic University of Lausanne are sceptical. The technology, they argue, cannot support the weight of a modern, safe car.
According to Daniel Favrat, Director of the EPFL's Institute of Industrial Science, such a technology would require at least 200 kilograms of compressed air to equal 1 litre of petrol.
"The tendency to go towards lighter vehicles for the city is a very good tendency, because we've seen in recent years, an increase of heavier vehicles of the same category. So that's a very positive element. The major challenge, however, is that pressurised air has a very weak energetic capacity", said Favrat.
As it is designed, he argues, the car does not meet modern security standards, which require heavy materials and have accounted for a large increase of cars' weight in the past twenty years.
Highlighting another major inconvenient for ever-more demanding public, Favrat said some comfort features such as air conditioning, heating or radio, that are not included on the 330kg Airpod.
"People progressively get used to comfort elements, air conditioning and heating, and to the other element, security of course", he said.
The vehicle will cost between 3,500 and 4,000 euros and has a maximum speed of 150 kilometres (93.21 miles) per hour.