There’s been a lot of hype and hysteria recently between hydrogen car advocates and those who are passionate about electric vehicles (EV). But, there’s a new game in town. A company called MDI (Moteur Developpment International) is introducing the world’s first commercial compressed air car and those into hydrogen and EV’s have been seen scratching their heads.
The MDI MiniCat and CityCat are both small affordable fiberglass cars geared for city driving only as their top speed is around 35 mph. The Compressed Air Technology (CAT) engine that was developed in 2002 for the first of these vehicles contains 4 two-stage pistons that are not only driven by compressed air from the onboard tanks, but also serve to compress ambient air and refill the tanks. Current CAT engines will be available in 2, 4 or 6 cylinder models.
MDI also has a second compressed air engine that is a hybrid. The MDI hybrid is a flex fuel engine that can run off compressed air, gasoline, alcohol, biofuels or several other derivative fuels. With this engine, the car is not bound to the city and may hit the open road with the fuel engine kicking in once the vehicle hits 35 mph and with a top speed of 68 mph. The top range for this vehicle is approximately 125 miles.
MDI envisions vehicles with both types of engines to refuel at typical gasoline stations using either the standard gasoline fuel pumps or a compressed air pump that is stationed away from the main fuel pumps. The compressed air cars also have small onboard compressors that only need to plug into an electrical outlet to recharge the tanks in about 3 to 4 minutes.
There are a few videos on the MDI website and what is striking about the car is that it is not as stealth as one would expect from a CAT. The pistons can be heard roaring by, which is in stark contrast to a hydrogen car or electric vehicle.
There is no doubt, though, that there is a new player in town. At city speeds, the compressed air car is a zero emissions vehicle and at higher speeds it still remains a low emissions vehicle, burning little fuel. But, there is always room for competition. Any new technology that will replace fossil fuel burning beasts is a good thing from an environmental and national security point of view.