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Fresh air driving

From Robyn Curnow

The Mini-Cat air car will be available at the end of the year at a price tag of $6,500.
The Mini-Cat air car will be available at the end of the year at a price tag of $6,500.

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(CNN) -- It sounds like an ordinary car. But it's not. In the South of France, inventor Guy Negre says he's developed a car that runs on air.

He says that no fuel is necessary to power the car to speeds close to seventy miles per hour. It's a whole lot of fresh air, driving an engine that Negre says is zero-polluting.

It's a radical concept that he has been developing since 1997, and he has taken more than 30 patents to protect his invention.

"The invention is in the engine. The invention is in the industrial process ... This technology is based on a rotation system exploited by cars which use natural gas. It is used even by people who work with combustion fuel. Hydrogen under pressure systems and even the tanks of a fireman's air reserve are based on this technology," Negre says.

So too is the ignition systems of racing cars. Both Guy Negre and his son Cyril have worked with formula one engines. Now, they've developed their own version; what they say is a clean, green, driving machine.

"This kind of engine has been developed step by step. We arrive at this system, globally; it's very simple because it's quite like a spring. There's compressed air in the tank and you expand this air on the piston; you push the piston and you drive the shaft, and then you go on to the wheel." Negre says.

It's designed to be recharged at home or filled up with specially designed air pumps.

Negre says he is getting interest from international investors.

A few Japanese businessmen visiting the factory for a personal tour are considering buying a license to produce and sell the air car in Japan.

Already, the Negre's say they have sold more than thirty licenses to investors from Mexico, to Italy and South Africa. All part of their plan to roll out small, local factories producing the various versions of their eco-car.

The little, zero-pollution car, called the mini-cat, will the be first version to be sold commercially at a price tag of $6,500.

A very affordable price because the Negre's say they've kept the car simple, light and compact, designed primarily for the city dweller.

Protecting the family purse string is just as important as protecting the environment.

"It is unthinkable to create an ecological car that is not also economical, because people are not usually prepared to spend money to be environmentally friendly," says Negre.

The environment is paying a high price for our reliance on petrol-powered automobiles. It is generally agreed by scientists that gas emissions contribute towards global warming and a host of other environmental evils.

The first models are due to be rolled out by the end of 2004. That is when Guy Negre's dream of putting a non-polluting car on our roads will be put to the test.

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