Air-Powered Car - Tata MiniCAT To Debut Soon

India based Tata Motors has said that it has tested two cars that can run on compressed air, and that the next step is setting up the manufacturing plants to actually build them.

News of Tata's air-powered "Mini CAT" car first surfaced way back in 2007. In 2007, Tata Motors signed a licensing deal with Motor Development International, a French design firm. The idea was to build a car that could run on compressed air. Now Tata says it has tested two cars with the engines. The next step is setting up the manufacturing plants to actually build them.

Here's the press release from Tata Motors -

MDI's air engine technology tested on Tata Motors vehicles
In January 2007, Tata Motors and Motor Development International (Luxembourg) signed a license agreement that enables Tata Motors to produce and sell compressed air cars using MDI technology in India. The agreement covered two phases of activity encompassing the technology transfer and proof of the technical concept in the first phase, and in the second phase completing detailed development of the compressed air engine into specific vehicle and stationary applications.

The first phase of this program - 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 industrialize a market ready product application over the coming years.


Compressed air engines aren't a new idea. The first models were proposed more than a century ago, and they were used in the mining industry for decades before electric motors became commonplace. Even now, compressed air powers all kinds of tools, notably the pneumatic impact wrenches in auto body shops.

A compressed air car engine works in a way similar to the internal combustion version: Fuel forces pistons to turn a crankshaft and power the car. The difference is that in a compressed air engine, the pistons are moved by air and not gasoline. Researchers in Sweden have experimented with single-cylinder engines of this type.

The only problem is power. Air compression alone only gets a car moving to about 30 to 35 miles per hour. So to supplement that, the car could take in more air as it moves faster, using an onboard air compressor. The air compressor could be electric or, more likely, gasoline-powered. But even that would reduce emissions a lot, since the gasoline engine wouldn't be running at lower speeds.

Range is also an issue. Like all vehicles, an air-powered car can drive only as far as the amount of fuel in its tank. And storing compressed air requires "fuel" tanks that are stronger than steel to contain the thousands of pounds per square inch necessary.

On the bright side, compressing air in such a tank is a lot less dangerous than natural gas or hydrogen. Then there is the issue of filling the car's tank -- most air compressors would take at least a couple of hours to do that.

Tata seems to be the only manufacturer that has committed to actually building an air-powered car. Honda unveiled an air-powered concept car in 2010, and a company called Zero Pollution Motors had promised to deliver one to the United States -- but that was two years ago. (The company's website domain is no longer in use.) If Tata is successful, it will go a long way toward reducing emissions in India -- and perhaps freeing cars from fossil fuels completely.

History of TATA Motors

Founded in 1945, today Tata Motors is India’s biggest automobile manufacturer.

The company was originally created to manufacture locomotives, but in 1954, working with Daimler-Benz AG (a relationship that ended in1969), it created its first commercial vehicle and has been doing so ever since. Since the first car rolled off the line in 1954, Tata has produced and sold over 6.5 million vehicles in India.

Headquartered in Mumbai, the company is ranked as eighteenth-largest motor vehicle manufacturer in the world according to volume, producing trucks, passenger cars, coach buses and vans. While they have five assembly and manufacturing plants in India, they also have plants in the United Kingdom, Argentina, Thailand and South Africa.

Tata Motors is in the process of expanding production into other areas of the world. The company took over Daewoo’s truck manufacturing unit in 2004 and gained controlling rights of bus and coach manufacturer Hispano Carrocera in 2005. But its most renowned acquisition was of top luxury brands Jaguar and Land Rover in 2008, purchased from Ford Motor Company for $2.3 billion. Tata is also the producer of the world’s cheapest car, the Tata Nano.



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3 comments to “Air-Powered Car - Tata MiniCAT To Debut Soon”

Sir, it isn't an invention of Tata. It was first conceptualized into a car by the French Company MDI (Motor Development International). Tata has just bought its patents. MDI has been successfully manufacturing such cars since 2008. The Tatas have bought the patents so that other companies don't start manufacturing them. Ultimately, it is a cartel of all automobile companies, which does not want to manufacture these vehicles, especially in such a big auto market like India! Because then, gasoline or diesel-based cars will simply vanish & auto majors will lose their markets!
Even if the Tatas bring in these cars, they will introduce them very slowly; they will drag this concept for upto a decade or more, till when pollution-cutting cars will become a regulation & economically it would be viable for auto makers to manufacture such cars, only.

Nandakumar said...
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Sir, it isn't an invention of Tata. It was first conceptualized into a car by the French Company MDI (Motor Development International). Tata has just bought its patents. MDI has been successfully manufacturing such cars since 2008. The Tatas have bought the patents so that other companies don't start manufacturing them. Ultimately, it is a cartel of all automobile companies, which does not want to manufacture these vehicles, especially in such a big auto market like India! Because then, gasoline or diesel-based cars will simply vanish & auto majors will lose their markets!
Even if the Tatas bring in these cars, they will introduce them very slowly; they will drag this concept for upto a decade or more, till when pollution-cutting cars will become a regulation & economically it would be viable for auto makers to manufacture such cars, only.

Nandakumar said...
on 

I would have to agree with you wholeheartedly.



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