Zero Pollution Motors, the U.S. licensee for MDI, developer of the tiny compressed air car AIRPod, just picked up a $5 million investment on Shark Tank.
Advancements in electric car technologies are starting push electric vehicles (EVs) further into the mainstream, which is a great sign that we're moving toward low-carbon transportation options, but one of the biggest barriers to entry for EVs (other than the current limitations on range and charging times) continues to be the cost.
While I think it would be pretty sweet to drive a Tesla, and I don't see any issue with its current range and charging times when it comes to my driving habits, I'd be perfectly happy with much less ambitious electric car - one with a smaller range, fewer amenities, longer charge times, etc. - but even the most basic models of EVs on the market are out of reach for most average consumers, including me.
A far less costly option, although still a fossil-fueled one, might be the as-yet-unreleased $6,800 Elio Motors vehicle, which is touted as being capable of getting 84 mpg, but there's another contender in the race to build clean affordable vehicles, and instead of being powered by electricity, the $10,000 AIRPod boasts of being a "Zero Pollution Vehicle" because it runs on compressed air.
The AIRPod, invented by Guy Nègre and developed by MDI, has been in the works for two decades, but we haven't yet seen viable production models on the market. That may change, though, as the U.S. licensee for the MDI technology, Zero Pollution Motors (ZPM), was recently backed by a $5 million investment from Robert Herjavec through the show Shark Tank.
One of the things that really sets the AIRPod apart from other cars, aside from its $10,000 price point and the incredibly low cost to "refuel" it with compressed air, is that the way that ZPM envisions radically changing the way that vehicles are built. Instead of traditional car manufacturing plants, ZPM is looking to create local "turnkey micro production factories" to not only build the vehicles, but to sell them as well. According to ZPM, this method "represents a drastic decrease in costs and logistic problems associated with the conventional assembly process" and could have a "significant beneficial impact" on the environment, as compared with conventional auto assembly plants.
ZPM's CEO Shiva Vencat shares a little more about the challenges of bringing an air-powered car to market in this quick video:
The AIRPod is said to weigh just 617 pounds, with a top speed of about 50 mph, and a range of approximately 80 miles. The car can be filled with compressed air in less than five minutes with a commercial-grade air compressor, which are found at just about any gas station, at a cost of less than $2 per fill-up.
According to ZPM's Fundable page, the first site for a U.S. AIRPod factory is anticipated to be in Hawaii, which is "the most fossil fuel dependent state" and therefore a good fit for the launch of an affordable low-carbon transportation option. The company's website claims that it expects to have its first vehicles available in the U.S. by the second half of 2015. For more info on this compressed air car, or to sign up to get on the waiting list, go to Zero Pollution Motors.