Okay, if it’s not exactly a car that runs through the air, a car that runs on air is still pretty f’ing cool!
Via Stephen at Cogitamus, news that Indian megacorporation Tata will be bringing to market the MiniCAT, a new car which uses compressed air as its energy source. It has some pretty severe limitations, including a max speed of around 60 mph and no heating system whatsoever. However, it can go over 150 miles between ‘rechargings’, and to recharge the engine takes one to two dollars worth of electricity (plus 3 or 4 hours). Additionally, as the compressed air expands, it is drastically cooled (via the same thermodynamics that operate the air conditioner in your car or house), so you get free A/C if it’s hot outside, which it pretty much always is in India, with no loss of power or mileage efficiency.
There are many reasons this car wouldn’t work in America – the limited distance, long “fueling” times, and safety concessions made in the name of efficiency (the car is glued together pieces of plastic). But, in a more reasonable future where most people drive very small, cheap, efficient cars for their daily commutes, and save the big beastly cars for longer weekend trips, this sort of technology seems very promising.