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Thursday, 26 October, 2000, 16:25 GMT 17:25 UK
Mexico set to have eco-taxis
Air-powered car
Mexico City could see taxis like this one on its streets
Mexico City, one of the most polluted cities in the world, could see air-powered taxis on its streets by 2002.

Factories producing a car billed as non-polluting are due to open in Mexico next June, and the first taxis are expected to roll off the production line eight months later.

The vehicle, which is said to run on compressed air, is currently being produced in France, where the first factories have already been installed.

The car's creator, French engineer Guy Negre, says it is the first viable alternative to vehicles that run on conventional fuel.

But some people argue that new car will not reduce pollution because electricity is needed to compress the air.

Click here to see how the car is powered

They say that the extra electricity is likely to come from fossil fuels, creating an added source of pollution.

Cheap fuel

The compressed air on which the car runs is stored in tanks, similar to scuba-diving tanks, attached to the underside of the car.

The release of air acts as fuel and activates the piston engine.

Mexico City
Mexicans are said to be interested in the car as a way of reducing pollution
Mr Negre says a tank-full of air - on which a car can travel up to 200km (120 miles) at a speed of about 90km/h - is equivalent to two litres of petrol.

If fleet owners install their own air stations, filling a car with 300 litres of compressed air could take three minutes.

Alternatively, the designers say the car could be plugged into any electrical power source to fill it up. That could take up to four hours.

Local production

The first models of air-powered vehicles - taxis, small pick-ups and delivery vans - are expected to be on the market later this year.

Motor Development International, the company which owns the patent, says that rather than mass-produce the car itself, franchises will be sold to local manufacturers.

Each factory will have the capacity to produce around 2,000 vehicles a year.

There are already plans for five production units in Mexico, as well as others in South Africa, Australia, the United States, Spain and Switzerland.

The Mexican taxis have been especially designed for the capital city.

Some hope that the new air-powered cars will eventually replace the city's petrol and diesel taxis, nearly 90,000 in total.

Motor Development International says that the Mexican authorities have shown interest in their cars as a way of fighting the city's pollution.

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24 Oct 00 | Africa
The car that runs on air
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