Tata air-power car looks like robot ladybird, may save world

Indian car maker Tata has a prototype motor that's powered by compressed air.

Indian car maker Tata has constructed a prototype air-powered car, that as well as looking like a massive robot ladybird might just be the next big thing in clean energy.

The company, which built the 'world's cheapest car' and then covered it in gems  and also makes terrifying war vehicles completed testing on two vehicles that are powered by compressed air back in May. A joint-venture with MDI, the prototype-stage 'AirPod' cars apparently cost just €1 per 200km, or £0.00631899077 per mile.

Despite looking like the worm car from the Busy World of Richard Scarry, the experimental automobiles are no slouch in the speed department, clocking a speed in the vicinity of 70km/h. I wouldn't attempt a speedy corner in one if I were you, though.

The cars seat three people, which is rather impressive for its small size, but won't win you any style points if you try cruising around town in it. Unfortunately, despite being surrounded by the substance that powers its motors, you'll still need to pull into an air-pumping station to fill it up.

Compressed-air power is still relatively unproven, and not without disadvantages (thanks Wikipedia). For example the compressed air must be completely dehydrated, and the energy conversion involved can be an inefficient process.

Still, I can't fault progress on any tech that could reduce our dependence on non-renewable fuels. Motor-makers are slowly moving toward more environmentally friendly vehicles, with VW mocking up a concept electric Beetle and the Nissan Leaf proving a fabulous -- if pricey -- electric motor.

Meanwhile the Tesla Roadster is doing its best to prove that non-petrol-guzzling motors can still look a bit like the Batmobile.

Fingers crossed Tata can make progress on its air-powered car, but in the meantime DMC is beavering away on the electric DeLorean , which boasts 35kW of power and doesn't even require a Flux capacitor to make it go. Check out the video below.

Would you drive Tata's mecha-ladybird air-powered car? Is air-power the future or should we focus on the electric variety? Let me know in the comments or on our Facebook wall.

Image credit: Discovery News

Additional reporting by Rory Smith

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About the author

Luke Westaway is a senior editor at CNET and writer/ presenter of Adventures in Tech, a thrilling gadget show produced in our London office. Luke's focus is on keeping you in the loop with a mix of video, features, expert opinion and analysis.

 

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