AirPod: The Other Electric Car
By EV World
Next Spring, if you pass through the main air terminals in either Paris or Amsterdam, you may find MDI's AirPod vehicles scurrying about, hauling passengers between Air France/KLM gates.
Capable of a top speed of 43 mph and powered by MDI's 4 kw (5.45 hp) compressed air motor, the 3-4 passenger three-wheeler will have a range of upwards of 130+ miles when traveling at 15-20 miles per hour on the equivalent of less than $1 worth of electricity.
Inspired by Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoë's call for a low-cost, zero emission electric carshare vehicle [See Paris' Electric Car Autolib Takes Shape] Nice-based MDI -- originators of the original AirCar -- adapted its technology to meet the challenge.
The composite plastic body car measures a mere 82 inches in length, 63 inches wide and 79 inches high. There are two versions: a passenger model weighting 485 lbs and a cargo version at 462 lbs. The cargo version has a storage capacity of 39 cubic feet.
Entrance and egress from the vehicle happens through the front and rear. The driver sits facing forward while any passengers will sit facing the rear. According to Shiva Vencat, MDI's representative for the Americas, three smaller adults can sit abreast in the rear, or more comfortably two adults and child.
Steering is accomplished with a "guide-by-wire" joystick mounted on the right. The turning radius of the vehicle is 75 inches. The two front wheels are small and close-set under the vehicle.
The 46-gallon carbon fiber compressed air tank can be pressurized in under two minutes at up to 4,500 psi using a commercial compressor.
ADDENUM: Home refilling would be accomplished using a small air compressor, and not using the car's air motor as previously reported. Refilling would take an estimated three hours and if it's like most home shop-type compressors, it would be noisy; a clear advantage for batteries, which recharge silently.
While the jury is still out as to the relative energy efficiency of using compressed air as an energy storage medium when compared to electric car batteries, the AirPod does have one critical advantage: its compressed air tank should last longer and cost less than chemical batteries.
Vencat explained to EV World.com that he is exploring demonstration programs in New York City, Nantucket and Los Angeles. While the AirFrance/KLM demonstration projects will employ drivers, the U.S.-based initiatives would explore the viability of AirPods and advanced car-sharing telematics. technology that exists and is in the hands of Daimler.
Perhaps most promising of all is the anticipated price: $7,000US. That will be a hard price to beat for other Autolib contenders. Initially, AirPods will be built in Nice, France.
Below are photos from the official unveiling.
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