Flowair by Zero Pollution Motors

You certainly can't accuse MDI/ZPM of lacking ambition. With such a well-developed line of products in the works and a PR department working overtime, the FlowAIR brand is angling to hit the French and US markets and hit them hard. The proposed costs are more than reasonable, especially if the specs stack up or even come close to doing so.

City FlowAIR

photo courtesy of Zero Pollution Motors

by Ross Bonander

Specs:

  • Type: Compressed air vehicle (CAV)
  • Manufacturer: Moteur Development International / Zero Pollution Motors
  • Propulsion system: 6 cyl. 75 hp engine that electronically injects compressed air
  • Top Speed: 96 mph (154 km/h)
  • Vehicle range: 848 miles
  • Fuel(s): Compressed air (3200 ft3 @ 4500 psi)
  • Fuel efficiency: 106 mpg (on an 8 gallon tank)
  • On-board charger: 5.5 kwh 110/220 v compressor generating 812 ft3 /hr
  • Tailpipe emissions: No

The manufacturer says

"The compressed air vehicle is a new generation of vehicle that finally solves the motorist’s dilemma: how to drive and not pollute at a cost that is affordable!"

Overview

France-based Moteur Development International and New York-based Zero Pollution Motors (MDI/ZPM) originally launched their line of compressed air vehicles under different names than the ones used today. They have undergone substantial changes, including a general rebranding of the entire vehicle line under one name, the FlowAIR.

The FlowAIR brand features five models that vary widely. I'll look at four of them (I'm omitting the MultiFlowAIR, designed for mass transportation). All models are center-driven (meaning the driver is positioned in the middle of the vehicle) and will be made available directly from the factory, without dealer mark-ups or other associated costs.

One FlowAIR

The One FlowAIR was formally known as the OneCat. This vehicle can be configured to seat 3 or 5 people and production is alleged to have already begun on it.

One FlowAIR

Estimated cost: €3500 ($4,500) or €5300 ($7000) with added features.

City FlowAIR

The City FlowAIR was formally known as the CityCat. A family-size, 4-door vehicle that seats 6, MDI/ZPM intends to enter the City FlowAIR in the mainstream class of the Progressive Automotive X-Prize. The detailed specs listed above apply to this model.

city flowair

Estimated cost: €13000 ($17,000)

Mini FlowAIR

The 2-door, 3-seat Mini FlowAIR was formally known as the MiniCat. This is the company's economy model; it will be available as a convertible, and it was recently on display at the New York Auto Show. MDI/ZPM intends to enter the Mini FlowAIR in the alternative class of the Progressive Automotive X-Prize.

Mini FlowAIR

Estimated cost: €9200 ($12,000)

AIRPod

Finally, there's the AIRPod Urban Transporter. I know, it's hard to look at it seriously, but it does have some merit. It can seat four people (provided one is a child), and get this: Like the TWIKE, you control the AIRPod with a joystick. MDI is pitching the AIRPod as a vehicle with municipal applications (i.e. for use at airports).

AIRPod

As a fleet vehicle, estimated costs aren't published, but the AIRPod has a range of 136 miles (220 km), a top speed of 43 mph (70 km/h), and it takes just 90 seconds to recharge the air tank.

The Compressed Air Engine (CAE)

The FlowAIR is made possible by one key technology: the Compressed Air Engine (CAE). This is proprietary technology developed by Formula One race car engineer Guy Negre. His background in Formula One racing is what led him to create the CAE, as those engines rely on a blast of compressed air to start.

The CAE functions in four modes of increasing complexity:

  • At under 35 mph, it expands compressed air stored in a tank to drive the piston.
  • Above 35 mph, it heats the compressed air prior to expansion. This increases the volume and increases efficiency.
  • A third mode ignores air compressed in a tank and uses an intake valve, then heats that air prior to expansion.
  • A fourth mode does double duty, using an intake to both refill the air tank and heat the incoming air to drive the piston.

ZPM's website has some animation of the engine in action; check it out here.

Conclusions

You certainly can't accuse MDI/ZPM of lacking ambition. With such a well-developed line of products in the works and a PR department working overtime, the FlowAIR brand is angling to hit the French and US markets and hit them hard. The proposed costs are more than reasonable, especially if the specs stack up or even come close to doing so.

Everything hinges on the viability of Negre's Compressed Air Engine and its acceptance among the general public. I think it's reasonable to assume that many people will be suspicious of a car running on compressed air; but clear that hurdle and MDI/ZPM might emerge as one of the biggest and most successful alternative car companies we've yet seen.

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