Tata Motor’s air car to be reality soon!
We had written about Tata’s Air Car called miniCat on Trak.in back in 2008. Fast forward to 2012, a recent update and press release on Tata Motor’s website hints that a compressed air car could be on Indian roads in the coming years. News reports too, suggest that Tata Motor could be in the process of setting up manufacturing plants to build them.
The press release on Tata Motor’s website mentioned
"The first phase of this programme – proof of the technical concept in Tata Motors vehicles – has now been successfully completed with the compressed air engine concept having been demonstrated in two Tata Motors vehicles. In the second phase of the development, the two companies are working together to complete detailed development of the technology and required technical processes to industrialise a market ready product application over the coming years."
The other company here is Motor Development International (MDI) based in Luxemburg. MDI has been researching and developing air-powered vehicles since the year 2000. It displayed its first prototype variants of OneCat at the New York Car Show in 2008. Tata has partnered with MDI to use its technology to develop a compressed air car in India.
Such a car can either be powered entirely by compressed air or can work on a hybrid platform integrated with traditional fuels like petrol, diesel or electricity. The air is stored in tanks that need to be strong so that they don’t rupture under the stress of holding immense air pressure per square inch, and in case of accidents.
A possible hurdle that could be coming in way of Tata Motor’s ambitious plans is the fact that compressed air would need to be cooled down in the tank of the car. If it heats up, it may expand and loose a significant amount of pressure leading to loss of available energy. There are also reports that such tanks may take hours to fill up with use of traditionally available mechanisms.
In the years of research that has been done on air powered vehicles, the range of such a car has always been an issue. Power is also not something that these cars can brag about. It would be fundamental to assume that reducing the power consumed to run the car would result in higher range. But when power itself is scarce, how will Tata going to develop a vehicle that copes up with either or both deficiencies?
We can speculate all we want but there is little denying that a functional compressed air car will rock the automobile and many other industries.
A vehicle that runs solely on compressed air may virtually forgo the use of traditional fossil fuels. Alternatively, a hybrid engine that runs on compressed air supported by traditional fuel will still require less amounts of fossil fuel. Compressed air motors have been used in the industry since many decades.
Handheld pneumatic tools powered by compressed air are still a mainstay in auto shops around the world.
If Tata Motors emerges with a viable, affordable and practical production model of a compressed air car in the coming years, it could very well be a pioneering effort that will go down as a first of its kind. Reduced emissions will be a boon to the environment and lesser dependence on fossil fuels will reduce our carbon footprint.
The Tata Group is no stranger to innovation. In fact, the group’s leadership got ranked 5th in Asia in a recent survey by consulting giant Hay Group. Innovation was one of the main reasons why Tata Group was featured in its list of best leadership companies.
Tata Motors has pioneered Tata Nano which is the smallest production car in the world and took the Indian automobile industry by a storm, making affordability the name of the game. Today, major auto giants are going all guns blazing to capture the small car segment.
Could Tata’s compressed air car be the next big thing to grab our traditional automobile industry by its neck?