You don’t have to look very hard to find a news story or article about the looming energy crisis secondary to humanity’s insatiable appetite for oil. With the knowledge that this resource is finite—and the fact that the world’s 600,000,000 cars consume 1 billion m3 of fuel annually—the race to find a commercially viable alternative energy source is big business, as evidenced by the explosion of hybrid and all-electric vehicle technologies into the marketplace.
Motor Development International, or MDI, in Nice, France, has developed a small, three-wheeled, two-person vehicle called AirPod (it seats the driver and one additional passenger—other models are also available) powered solely by compressed air (which, by the way, is not a new technology—it has been used in French trams since the 19th century).
The AirPod has no steering wheel, but rather a joystick that controls the vehicle’s mobility. And as you can imagine, with three wheels, it has a fantastic turning radius. Further, the virtually emissions-free vehicle, designed for city driving, can reach a maximum speed of 80 km per hour and can travel 150-200 km per tank of compressed air.
Engineer Cyril Negre estimates that the cost of running this “durable, efficient, and ecological” vehicle is about 50 (Euro) cents per 100 km, and retails for the sticker price of €7000 (about $8760 USD). MDI is working alongside a number of international car companies, including India’s auto giant Tata, to develop the AirPod into an affordable alternative to traditional gas-powered cars.