Compressed air cars have been around since the 1800s, but they have always suffered the reputation of a novelty invention. Instead, standard gasoline engines ruled the auto world for the majority of the 20th century. Today’s energy troubles have caused some auto companies to become serious about creating viable compressed air vehicles that can compete on the standard market. Zero Pollution Motors has produced a line of compressed air vehicles they plan to release in the United States in the near future. The big question is whether U.S. consumers will be interested in these unusual cars. Any time a new car enters the market there is a concern of the higher cost of ownership, which includes increases in premiums when you compare auto insurance costs for new cars entering the market versus well-established cars.

Not Entirely Emission Free

A compressed air engine works by forcing pressurized air through the engine. On its own, a compressed air engine can only produce speeds of about 35 mph. With the addition of a tiny amount of gasoline or electricity, the engine can produce highway speeds up to 90 mph. Many Americans would laugh at this limitation despite the lack of any legal roads where one can travel even that fast.

The Zero Pollution vehicles rely on small gasoline tanks to give them the extra push they need to travel fast enough for city streets, so they are not entirely emission free. The emissions are nearly imperceptible compared to a normal gas engine, making the idea of compressed air cars very attractive. But in practice, these cars might just look too strange for U.S. consumers.

Structural Differences are Striking

The first thing that most Americans will notice about the Zero Pollution cars will probably be the cosmetics rather than the emissions. These compressed air vehicles look almost cartoonish with their exaggerated rounded edges and pod-like structures. The cars definitely focus more on practical elements than on luxury, with small passenger spaces and an all-glue construction. U.S. consumers who spend a great deal of time on the road might find these vehicles a little too sparse and uncomfortable. It’s hard to imagine the two-hour commuter enjoying a compressed air vehicle.

Maintenance and Repair Could Offset Savings

The only cost of running one of the Zero Pollution compressed air vehicles is filling the tiny gas tank. Zero Pollution estimates that topping off the tank should cost about $2.00. You won’t have to do that too often either. Americans like cheap, but cost saving stop at the pump.

Maintenance and repair for these new cars is likely to be difficult. Finding replacement parts when something breaks will take much more time and effort, and will drive up the cost of repairs dramatically. U.S. consumers may be turned off by the unusual nature of the car, especially if they like to tinker around under the hood every now and then. A compressed air engine’s wheeze just doesn’t convey the same machismo of the gasoline engine’s roar.

Steep Competition from Electric Vehicles

The biggest obstacle to widespread popularity of a compressed air vehicle is the recent release of several different electric vehicles through large, well-known auto manufacturers. Chevrolet, Toyota, and Nissan have all produced electric powered vehicles that look and feel just like the gasoline-powered cars that Americans are used to driving.

The familiarity of these electric cars could keep Americans from feeling as if they need to experiment with the unusual new compressed air vehicles at all. Even though electricity does require fossil fuels to generate, it still feels more environmentally friendly to consumers without forcing anyone out of their comfort zone.

Jessica Bosari writes for She writes about auto insurance discounts and driver safety so that her readers can make informed choices when they compare car insurance companies.


  1. Hello, no compressed air cars are in production yet. Their launch has been promised for this summer in Nice (France), but delays are always possible. The first model will be the Airpod, a tiny urban egg-shaped vehicle. If f you're really interested I suggest you have a look at my site featuring lots of information, pictures, videos, links and always the latest news.

  2. I want one. Chances are that the maintenance costs will be extremely low. Parts might be hard to get, but as the technology becomes more available, these costs will drop.

    The biggest battle these cars will face is from big auto makers and the oil companies.

  3. Are you kidding me with gas at 4 bucks a gallon, they will be rolling off the line faster than they can produce them. The market will be people who want to get to work cheaply in suburban markets. Once enough are sold the after market people will be glad to produce parts. It is called capitalism and it works, provide a better product cheaper the saves the customer money and it will sell. I see the problem as having GM and Fords lawyers hold up the vehicle as long as possible in court until they run the company out of money defending itself. That is America, armed with a lawyer you can stop almost anything, just look what PETA has done.


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