Voila! A Car Powered By Air

Two Frenchmen have invented a car that runs on air. CBS

With prices like these, maybe it's time to put some hard thought into what we could be filling up with. The Iranians say they have a solar-powered car. Engineers in the U.S. and Europe say they have tried hydrogen. But, how about air? CBS News correspondent Sheila MacVicar reports.

At their factory in southern France, father-and-son team Guy and Cyril Negre insist air power is no joke.

"It's a different way of thinking cars," says Cyril.

Plain old air compressed in the tank, they say, cheap and non-polluting. Sound too good to be true?

"This is not a toy car," says Cyril. "It's a real car. The other thing is it's a very zero emission car. You won't pollute, there won't be emission and the thing also, you have a very economical car."

A car, says the Negres, that will cost just $2 for every 120 miles.

The Negres have a long love affair with cars. Guy designed a Formula One race car engine. Cyril worked at Bugati. The technology for their car, they say, is relatively simple and safe.

"When you compress the air in the tank, inside of the tank, this is like compressing a spring, and then the tank gives you back the energy of the air when it expands," says Cyril.

Compressed air in a carbon-fiber tank, something like scuba divers use, drives the pistons and turns the crankshaft. There is no combustion and no gasoline. That's why there's no pollution. You fill it up at an air compressor. It may sound far-fetched, but at his labs on the campus of UCLA, professor Su-Chin Chow is also exploring the power of air.

"The beauty of this concept is air is everywhere and it doesn't generate pollutions. The main problem is the technology to make use of air," he says.

Trying out the car, MacVicar says "It's a bit like driving a lawn mower."

The Negres say after years of delays, even skullduggery, they have solved their technical problems.

"You know, it feels pretty solid," says MacVicar. "It sounds like a lawn mower but it actually feels pretty solid."

Another year, they say, and they'll be ready for large scale production, with a top speed of 55 miles-an-hour, floating on air.
  • Amy Clark

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