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May 26, 2021

Air-powered car on its way by 2011

By Jason Buckland, Sympatico / MSN Finance

No, this isn’t a bad flatulence joke. We’re serious.

As engineers topple over themselves to one-up each other and thumb the eye of the SUV era, the latest car design needs not hybrid fuel or a solar charge to operate – rather, simply air.

France’s Zero Pollution Motors (ZPM) announced yesterday they plan to have an incredibly fuel-efficient vehicle, one that could emit nothing but air into the atmosphere, on North American roads by 2011.

The to-be-named model is likely to receive a retail tag of $18,000-to-$20,000 and could
reach an impressive top speed of about 150 km/h, ZPM’s chief exec says.

Sceptical? I bet. Here’s how it works:

The ZPM functions like an electric car, requiring a plug-in to a wall outlet to charge the on-board air compressor, which will pressurize the vehicle’s air tank to 4,500 pounds/sq. inch.

After four hours, the car reaches full pressure and will be able to send air into the engine to power its pistons and run the automobile. At speeds less than about 55 km/h, the vehicle can run exclusively on the air tank and emits “only cold air”, according to the ZPM boss.

For faster speeds, a small conventionally-fuelled engine kicks in to run a heater to warm the air to hurry its release. The fuelled engine also refills the air tank, as well, apparently extending the range and speed.

You have to admit, this is pretty cool stuff. There’s a big draw-back in that, after the four-hour charge, you can only take the car about 32 km before the air tank runs out and the fuelled engine is forced to take over. But that seems a bit nitpicky, especially considering the ZPM model is supposed to get you a staggering 100 mpg (or 43 km/L) in fuel consumption.

There are, of course, a lot of sceptics quick to pick apart the ZPM car, and maybe they’re right. Air compression isn’t the most efficient way to convert electricity to work, one engineer tells the Associated Press. And the Chevy Volt is supposed to get the same fuel consumption when it’s to be released, too.

Regardless, there is a lot to like. If you can stomach the look of the car, its retail price would go for about half of what the Volt is rumoured to debut at (around $40,000). And, if you can believe it, steps are being made to ensure the super-light, super-small ZPM model will meet North American road safety standards by its release date.

Also, if you’re scoring at home, this is now the second unconventional vehicle to make its way to North America as our native auto industry crumbles like Hans Moleman after that football spiralled into his groin.

However it fares, the ZPM car will now try and team with the Tata Nano as vehicles set on revolutionizing the modern automobile as we know it.



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...