Zero Pollution Motors plans 2011 U.S. launch for 106mpg air-powered car

The ZPM AIRPod demonstrates the company's small form factor and compressed air technology

The ZPM AIRPod demonstrates the company's small form factor and compressed air technology

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While major auto manufacturers race to bring new electric and hybrid cars to market, other companies are looking at alternatives to electricity - including using air to power cars. The idea of an air-powered car is nothing new, and companies have been touting the technology for the past few years but for now not much has emerged in the way of a production model, largely due to flaws with the design of the vehicles.

In fact, many engineers are skeptical of the technology's use, as the energy required to power air-compressors in air-powered cars is massive compared to using that energy in an electric battery instead. But there are some distinct advantages to be found in the use of air-powered cars, namely their relative inexpensiveness when compared to complex hybrids and electric vehicles.

One such champion of this aspect of air-powered cars is the CEO of Zero Pollution Motors, a start-up that has developed its own compressed-air car that it hopes to bring to U.S shores by 2011. Heading up the company is Shiva Vencat, who says that while the "whole wide world" may criticize air-powered cars, at the end of the cars such as the Chevrolet Volt need a "massive lithium-ion battery" and hence the final cost to consumers skyrockets.

Conversely, Vencat claims that his compressed-air car will ultimately cost around $18,000 to $20,000 when it arrives in the U.S., or around $15,000 less than the upcoming Volt is expected to cost. This saving comes from not having to implement a complex electrical system in the car, and saving on battery costs.

Air-powered cars work by using an air compressor to pressurize air in the car’s tank. When the car is driven at low speeds, the air is released, pushing the pistons up and down as in a conventional gasoline engine without the need for gasoline to provide combustion. At higher speeds the ZPM uses a small conventional motor to heat up the air in order to release it more quickly, as well as to compress more air to extend the range of the car.

The problem with this, as pointed out by numerous experts, is that plugging an air-powered car into a wall to compress air is inherently less efficient than plugging an electric car into the wall instead. The Zero Pollutions Motor air-car uses around six times as much electricity to cover the same distance as the Chevrolet Volt - ultimately, which one appeals to consumers will depend on their own needs but its not impossible to think of certain segments that could find an air-powered car useful.

As for the stats behind Zero Pollution Motors' compressed-air car, they read as impressively as any current electric car - seating for six people, fuel economy of 106mpg and 75hp from its six-cylinder engine, as well as a driving range of close to 850 miles.
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Comments (29)
  1. They just couldn't make it good looking, that was to hard.... ho come on, where are those guys from? just make it look like a car, not like a rolling box

  2. seems like a decent start, but what is the crash test results on this ugly little thing.

  3. Sorry I made a mistake in voting up on your comment. This is not an uggly little thing, the Air Pad rcks and they want people to be like in a toy car! Amazing!!!!

  4. It's like your own personal coffin, what colour to choose, what colour hhmmm...

  5. Looks about as practical as gold-leaf toilet paper.

  6. BTW, what does this thing weigh? It looks like it would blow over when a Smart passes by.

  7. That may be one of the weirdest looking things I have ever see

  8. Relative to EV's, the one advantage of compressed air, maybe refill times similar to that of filling a tank of gas.

    It does sort of look like a motorized covered wheel chair.

  9. They want to charge us twice the price of the Euro version. Darn government intervention.

  10. If FORD, GM, AND CHRYSLER would get these cars on the road NOW maybe they wouldn't NEED the "bailout" they are looking for from us taxpayers! What a country!

  11. I still think that the price of these cars needs to be quite a bit lower than 18000 for them to become a staple in the US. Just too expensive for such a light vehicle.

  12. They don't want to many of this cars in the street thats why they are expencive understand? And the US said oh yes in 2012 they will be on the market as they did also with the Indian Tata Nano but they will never ever be for sell here unless you import one of them. They said the Tata Nano will be for sell in the US for about $7.000/8.000 how much they sell them in India? only $2.000!!! If I will import one of does with taxes and fees will be less than $7.000 believe me. I'm going to wait a little bit more and if the US don't have them I will import either one.

  13. Honestly I don't understand how that could be worth $18,000... besides the awesome bright colors crazy windows and weird seating it looks so CHEAP.. or maybe that's what makes it look so cheap haha 0_O

  14. I think people are looking at these vehicle the wrong way. Instead of a car, I see this more like a motorcycle. It offers more protection from the elements, better gas mileage, and just about as much protection from other vehicles as a motorcycles. I ride a bike and I would love to have one of these things too.

  15. I totaly agree with you barry love to have one of does, any clue when it's going to be for sell in the in the US?

  16. I agree with Barry #14! His is the most helpful conception about the design of the ZPM. Thanks, Barry, for thinking outside of the box of normal, usual car shapes.

  17. I'd like to build my own as a kit car - I just wonder what the engine would cost with the air compressor. I designed something like when I was 12 - of course I didn’t have any idea what I was doing. I thought it was possible but my parents where not supportive of trying. What I think I’d do is combine this engine with a cyclekarts racer's body and perhaps combined with petal powered for when you ran out of air. I like the basic idea.

  18. Shoot if gas prices continue to rise, I know I'm buying one. And even if I don't, others will, which will lower the demand of gas, which will drive down prices worldwide. People who don't switch should see some external benefits from this new entry.

  19. I hope the Japanese get in on this car. I think htey are our only hope for alternative power wether that be electricity or cars.

  20. When is it going to be sold in the US? Interested in the 5-6 passenger. Been following this company for 5 years and the cars are still not available to buy in the US yet!!!

  21. I love the fact that you can have compressed air setup making a vehicle run. What I do not want is the ugly looking vehicle. I will take their engine that will replace my engine, that can be powerfull enough to make 400 behind wheel horsepower to move my muscle car. I have a car, just need an engine.

  22. Ugly does not begin to describe this thing. As with all transportation solutions it is the net energy use from source to vehicle that matters. By using 6 X the electrical energy to compress air versus charge a battery this THING would need massive investment in electric generation, transmission, and distribution. Unless this generation is green the net effect will be even more pollution than we have now. Right now the US uses coal, the most polluting fuel on the planet. Well done air heads ! !

  23. this is terrible.. this isnt the only model that is out in the market.. they just showing this one so people get turn off my it, they have awesome looking 6 ppl minivans and honda is making some kick @ss sports cars.. please dont be deceive by what is shown here..

  24. No matter what you are saying of course wrong! I'm going to get one of this cars, if they will not be for sell in the US I will import one!!! but definitely I will have one of does in erlier 2013!!!

  25. They wanted you to be like riding a toy car and that’s the interesting thing, I definitely loved. The Air Pod car rocks. Please anyone knows where or when it’s available for sell in the US, I’m crazy to have one of this cars and I have the money to pay cash right away!!!!

  26. I really like the idea behind this. I've thought a lot about doing something like this but I wouldn't feel safe going highway speeds on a tricycle... other than the ugly weirdness and the not safe thing I really like it! give me the motor and I'll fix it for you :)

  27. Just a thought but how long does it take to charge a car with compressed air? Some electric cars are stating that electric cars need to be charged over night, to achieve a full charge. Personally I would find that a problem.

  28. I read that at a station it should take about 2 to 4 minutes to fill the tanks up. And at home it could take a little longer if you have an air compressor that is power full enough maybe up to 4 hours to fill the tanks up.

  29. I think the air car concept is perfect, but the way this air car looks is just a little bit out of the ordinary. One thing too much glass and it looks like it just came out of a box. I think, developed by a ex-Formula One engineer Guy Nègre had the right Idea about a air car. Just to bad that he is selling the car in India

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