AirPOD, the Air-Powered Car

I’ll admit it, for those who haven’t read my blog long enough to realize it: I’m not a big fan of hybrid and electric cars. There are several reasons for it – and yes, I’ve given it some thought. The first one is that I enjoy the power offered by the internal combustion engine; so far, no one has been able to produce energy that’s more portable, and more concentrated, pound for pound, than gas. So sorry, so sad, but that’s just the truth.

The second is that comparing electric or hybrid cars with their conventionally-powered cousins is always depressingly expensive; consider the Chevrolet Volt and the Cruze, for example. The Volt is so subsidized – up to $40,000 per car! – that it amounts to middle-class taxpayers giving rich taxpayers a gift. Few sane middle-class people would buy such a useless and poorly performing car when they can buy the Cruze – the SAME car – for about $17,000.

Moreover, it is my firm belief than most hybrid cars, particularly the luxury ones, are nothing but a way for rich people to make themselves feel better, without doing one iota of good for the environment, in this case at the expense of other, less well-off taxpayers.

That’s not to say I don’t believe in alternative means of powering cars; I do. I just don’t think that taking existing cars and expensively and generally ineffectively re-jigging them with electrical and hybrid system will do anyone any good. What you need is something entirely different, and with the AirPOD, you have it. Now this car is not yet in full production, not in North America, anyways, but it shouldn’t be too long.

AirPOD at the Geneva Motor Show (2009)
AirPOD at the Geneva Motor Show (2009)

As you can see, this car is dramatically different, and offers true zero-emission driving through the power of compressed air. Instead of batteries or a gas tank, this little car has a tank of compressed air, which is used to power the pistons of an engine.

The AirPOD can reach a top speed of 70 kilometers per hour, and has an autonomy of about 200 kilometers, which is more than enough for most people. In my case, even living in the suburbs, I could easily use it, and without recharging during the day. The vehicle is equipped with an on-board compressor, for which you presumably need to plug in somewhere. If recharging at dedicated charging stations, it can be done in as little as a minute and a half!

This vehicle is cheap to own and cheaper to operate. It’s estimated it should cost about $10,000 to buy, probably less when production ramps up, and costs only about $0.70 per hundred kilometers driven. That’s seventy cents! Compare that to whatever it is you’re driving now and your jaw’ll drop!

The thing is, you can’t compare the two, not really. I’m never going to abandon my gas-powered car entirely, it’s just too much fun, can carry more, climb more hills, especially if you’ve got a Jeep, but the fact is, I could drive a car like the AirPOD 75% of the time, saving gas and money, while saving wear on the car I love.  What’s not to like?

OneFlow AirPOD
OneFlow AirPOD

The company that’s developing these vehicles, MDI, is based in France, and according to their business model, the cars will be locally built and assembled in individual markets, allowing them to remain cheap and avoiding import duties. They have a whole range of models under development, and have recently inked a deal with TATA Motors of India, who are bankrolling the completion of development in exchange for exclusivity in India, which is one heck of a massive market for a car like that.

So that’s what I believe in: something entirely different, rather than the same old concepts re-hashed endlessly, and frankly, they;re not doing so hot. Take the new Audi A8 Hybrid. It gets about the same power, performance and economy that the diesel version of the car. So what’s the point, except stroking someone’s ego? Give me the AirPOD any day.

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