Back in 2008, the MDI air car was all the rage.
It was "the next big thing" that would make internal combustion obsolete and throw battery-powered vehicles back into Detroit auto labs for another fifty years.
Consumers wanted one, investors craved a piece of the action, and media hounds were tripping over themselves to get an inside look. We even wrote about it because, quite frankly, readers were asking us to.
But from everything we knew about this technology, it was still uncertain if anything would actually come of it...
Today Tata Motors continues testing the air car, with its most recent update announcing that Tata and MDI were in their second phase of development, working together to complete detailed development of the technology and to industrialize a market-ready production application over the coming years.
Well, they might want to pick up the pace a bit, because another company has just announced that it's bringing a similar type of vehicle to the market...
And this one seems to be getting a lot more traction in the early phases of testing.
117 Miles Per Gallon
Now, it should be understood that compressed air technology is nothing new. As we wrote more than five years ago:
Since 1896 when Rudolf Diesel made a patent claim for using a supercharger to provide a more dense charge of air to the first diesel engine, compressed air has been used to up power output in almost every internal combustion application.
Of course, a lot can change over the course of 117 years, and what's being developed today is far beyond anything Rudolf Diesel could've ever imagined...
French car manufacturer PSA Peugeot Citroen has recently claimed it can put an air-powered vehicle on the road by 2016. And according to engineers, it could slash fuel bills by 45% and, when driving at low speeds in cities, by as much as 80%.
As reported in UK's Daily Mail, the system works by using a normal internal combustion engine, special hydraulics, and an adapted gearbox along with compressed air cylinders that store and release energy. This allows it to run on gasoline, air, or a combination of both.
Air power would be used only for city use, automatically activating below 43 miles per hour and available for 60% to 80% of the time in city driving. Peugeot says the hybrid air car would deliver 117 mpg.
Basically, this is just a hybrid vehicle that uses compressed air to provide additional power instead of a battery — but the result could be a cheaper hybrid vehicle, as the compressed air systems would be cheaper to produce than batteries.
Of course, Peugeot still has an uphill battle to climb. The French company has taken it on the chin over the past few years as its major markets, which include Italy, Portugal and Spain, have been crushed by economic crises. And to be honest, I'd be fearful to even own a business in France these days. It seems the new French President Francois Hollande is committed to gutting any remains of a real free market.
Still, if the technology proves successful, that could make all the difference. Unfortunately, we'll have to wait at least a few more years before we get any clarity on the potential success of hybrid air technology.
In the meantime, most major carmakers continue to move forward on their battery hybrid and electric offerings, because that's the direction in which we are moving.
3.8 Million Electric Cars
According to Pike Research, sales of electric vehicles in 102 cities in the United States will reach more than 1.8 million from 2012 to 2000. More than 25% of all annual electric vehicle sales will be in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and Portland, with more than one in five being sold in California. And this is just in the United States...
Globally, sales of electric vehicles are estimated to reach 3.8 million annually by 2020.
That means that nearly 50% of expected sales will come from the United States, thereby making the U.S. the most lucrative market for electric vehicles in about eight years.
Pike has also reported on natural gas trucks and buses, with estimates showing more than 930,000 natural gas-powered trucks and buses will be sold across the globe from 2012 to 2019.
We've been talking about these for years and the eventual transition of our trucks and buses to natural gas...
And certainly, we've alerted you to opportunities in this space as well — not to mention opportunities in natural gas infrastructure and freight rail companies that serve nearly all of these operations.
In fact, bolstered by backroom deals between Warren Buffett and President Obama, the freight rail sector is booming as it provides the lifeblood for oil and gas producers all over the United States.
If those trains were to stop, so would all that oil and gas...
If you haven't jumped on yet, you'd be crazy to wait any longer.
To a new way of life and a new generation of wealth...
@JeffSiegel on Twitter
Jeff is the managing editor of Energy and Capital and contributing analyst for the Energy Investor, an independent investment research service focusing primarily on stocks in the oil & gas, modern energy and infrastructure markets. He has been a featured guest on Fox, CNBC, and Bloomberg Asia, and is the author of the best-selling book, Investing in Renewable Energy: Making Money on Green Chip Stocks. For more on Jeff, go to his editor's page.