Things were looking good for startup automaker Zero Pollution Motors and its compressed-air powered car, AIRPod. Legendary pop music star Pat Boone and entrepreneur Ethan Tucker were able to impress investor Robert Herjavec enough on the ABC hit series “Shark Tank” to invest $5 million for a 50% share. Herjavec sweetened the deal by committing to get involved with creating an effective sales network in the U.S. Zero Pollution Motors needed the $5 million to set up an assembly plant in Hawaii to produce the city car capable of traveling up to 50 mph with an 80 mile range. They said it takes four minutes to fill up the air tank, and would only cost car buyers $10,000 for driving the cleanest car on U.S. roads.
That story has changed. On Friday, the company posted this on its Facebook page: “Robert (Herjavec) backed out of the deal made last year after waiting 9 months. Now we are free to have other investors! Are you in?”
That episode of “Shark Tank” first aired in May 2015 and then was repeated on Friday evening. It seemed to be originally filmed in late 2014 or early 2015. So far, there haven’t been any media comments from Herjavec or the automaker beyond the Facebook posting.
This is a classic tale of what tends to happen in advanced vehicle technologies, especially by startup companies trying to make it as a vehicle manufacturer. Investors do pull away if they become concerned about what’s happening internally with management; they can also lose confidence visiting the production facility and looking at the financials. It’s an incredibly capital intensive business to make it in, and skilled, experienced personnel is a must.
Here are a few of my thoughts on what stands out with the Zero Pollution Motors experience:
- The potential of the car, and the presentation made on “Shark Tank,” were enough to impress Herjavec, who’s made some very sizable investments in new technologies. Herjavec has a lot of interest in cars; two years ago, he led Connected Car Expo’s FASTPITCH competition right before the start of the LA Auto Show. The fact that he walked away indicates there are some serious internal issues for the company and its owners to deal with.
- The company is making what I consider to be a big mistake: competing with other alternative technologies to take out Big Oil. Ethan Tucker made comments about compressed-air car AIRPod being superior to electric vehicles on “Shark Tank,” such as not needing the expensive lithium ion battery. The company’s Facebook page makes statements about the need to find freedom from fossil fuel addiction, the power of Big Oil, and the threat of environmental devastation. The real issue is that the company wants to brag that it has the best-of-the-best in alternative technologies. That’s been debated for years, with the latest hotspot coming from the electric vehicle vs. hydrogen fuel cell vehicle debate. The real challenge is getting consumers and fleets to overcome their concerns about owning a new technology, so that they will make that investment and spread the good word to their peers.
- Compressed-air cars are getting a lot of interest in global markets. Luxembourg-based Motor Development International (MDI), and its founder Guy Negre, have been behind AIRPod from its origination. MDI has been working with Tata Motors to build the car through Zero Pollution Motors in Hawaii, and then ship some of them back for sale in India.
- If you view the image in this article and on the website and Facebook page, you’ll see another significant development in transportation: supporting urban mobility. It’s a small, lightweight car with limited size and range. It’s targeted at consumers concerned about overdeveloped cities and air pollution. There’s hope that young consumers (Millennials) will embrace mobility options as they put off owning a car and move into cities.
- Advanced vehicle technologies inspire a lot of enthusiasm and interest out there, which is well represented by celebrity investor Pat Boone. He thinks it’s an answer for crowded cities with air pollution. One of the big challenges that I’ve noticed is getting them to stay interested and committed to supporting the technology. I’ve had many conversations with people fascinated with the potential, thinking about getting involved with the business or buying one of the cars. Most of them become interested in something else and forget about clean vehicles.
- What about the infrastructure? Compressors will need to be available at fueling stations. That will take a lot of investment and partnerships with fuel station owners.
- One of the big stumbling blocks for the company is getting through the NHTSA and EPA testing procedures. It’s been accepted in Europe but still has to clear with the federal agencies, which is not easy to do.
- Compressed air equipment is currently being used in various applications. Caterpillar and equipment rental companies like United Rentals have been using compressed air systems for years.
The odds are stacked against the round and futuristic AIRPod making it to roads, and compressed air-powered vehicles as a passenger vehicle. It’s a fascinating technology where the tanks with compressed air are heated and the air is sent into cylinders of a piston engine. The fueling will be fast and cheap, and the emissions might be as clean as the water coming out of fuel cell cars. The AIRPod may drop down to costing only $3,700 to build before it sells for $10,000. I hope AIRPod makes it, but it’s been sad to watch several companies with admirable technologies having to close their shutters.
16 thoughts on “Zero Pollution Motors and its compressed air car lose investor in classic tale for the auto industry”
One advantage (or disadvantage) of compressed air drive is climate dependent , the expansion of air through the drive engine has a cooling effect and could displace air conditioning with no energy penalty- great for Hawaii but not so much for Canada
It’s pie in the sky fantasy. Compressed air is NOT efficient. MDI motors have been making CLAIMS of their mileage and range but after 15 years no independent verification exists. In order to get a licence to manufacture their cars they will actually have to prove their claims, something they can not do. MDI will just have to continue to pedal the rights to sell their cars to sucker.
The manufacturer is looking at this all wrong I have a better way, but it technically could still be considered air powered.
I am very interested for details of your idea
mainly because, years ago, I also have another idea
related to this story
I would be glad to communicate and discuss with you
I have just now been able to see your comment of March 26, 2018 about compressed air powered vehicles. I have a patented system (USA) that operates on compressed air, but not directly. The compressed air system merely generates the charge to the power batteries. This is the COMPEL SYSTEM FOR POWERING ELECTRIC MOTOR VEHICLES, U S Patent 8996222. If you will give me your mailing address I will be happy to send you the summary sheet and you can refer directly to the patent. I am looking to sell or license this system and I do hope to hear from you. Thank you and regards. Fred F. Penrod Redstone1931@gmal.com.
HAPPY NEW YEAR
Excuses for the delay because me, also, I just saw your answer to my comment, months ago.
I would be happy to see your ideas
and I explain you mine in a few words:
My initial idea, many years ago, when the first I found on a newspaper the Frenchman’s idea for the “compressed air motor” (Guy Nègre – deceased)
was this :
If compressed air is an efficient reliable solution for energy storage then there is no need of any complicated engine to convert it into mechanical work (motion energy).
Driving the compressed air pressure directly to air turbines on the powered wheel’s axis would be enough to move the vehicle. That would also have several advantages as easy and independent distribution of power, easy 4wd, no need of mechanical transmitting equipment (gear box, clutch) etc.
My e-mail address is
I put a $1,000 pay pal down on a pre order in July, 2014. Zero Pollution Motors will not respond or give updates. Sheva Vincant has responded but now 2 & 1/2 years later i’m getting tired of the game. I’m now going to file with the BBB, State of Hawaii, & Pay Pal Complaints for Fraud. I’m also not above filing a Federal Lawsuit so please reply Shiva, or Zero Pollution Motors. Sincerely, SFC Bryan Strother Oroville, CA google me…
AirPod is a complete scam. They take money from morons who don’t understand basic physics and are too stupid or lazy to do simple research. I honestly think these people believe air compresses itself magically.
The problem is not that the air is compressed from grid power, or even efficiency. The most basic problem is that compressed air is less energy dense than even the most primitive batteries. No compressed air car has ever been demonstrated with a range greater than 5 miles.
It was really disappointing to see Mr. Boone associate himself with these hucksters. I would like to believe he was simply suckered by them, along with the unfortunate investors that MDI and their associates have been bilking for nearly 30 years without ever selling a single airpod.
This is straight forward nonsense. This is not a matter of marketing it differently or talking about it differently or whatever differently. Air pressure powered cars can’t compete on range or efficiency with other motor technologies. The idea of air pressure powered cars has been around for a long time and they have exactly zero market share because they would provide zero benefits to the owner of an air pressure powered car.
There was sadness here. Pat Boone is obviously not a deep thinker or technically astute. He seems to have been taken, although whether he lost money hasn’t been revealed. Herjavec was a disappointment on this. If you own the rights to a design for the next great motor technology why in the world would you get involved in making cars? You would make some prototype proof of concept motors and sit back while the world beats a path to your door so they can throw money at you for the rights to use your amazing technology.
For reasons that aren’t clear, Herjavec didn’t seem to understand this and agreed to a deal. However, about half the deals on Shark Tank fall through and after a little introspection and some investigation Herjavec pulled out, something that seemed inevitable to this viewer of the show.
Sell it. Nobody got involved with electric for the longest time and it’s been around just like compressed air since the late 1800s. No money in competeing with a conglomerate corporation that’s already there. Tesla has had a difficult road and continue to have one. The fast money would of been sell to chevy etc.
My God people, you are so dense. Compressed air is one of the most forms of energy. Even if the air car and electric car had the same range, the cost of compressed air would be outrageous. He mentioned gas stations have air. Say 75 cents for 3 minutes and it takes 4 hours to charge. That’s $45 to fill the tank. I would give it 5 miles maximum
Most large planes now run mostly on compressed air. Please research this massive scam!
Wow! I don’t know what this means “Most large planes now run mostly on compressed air. Please research this massive scam!” My car runs on mostly compressed air. Fourteen to one ration with gasoline and the engine does all of the “compressing”. I won’t invest money in this nonsense. I know what it takes to fill a sixty gallon tank with 175 psi and I’ve worked with efficient air motors and compressors capable of 450 psi plus. I don’t have one that will handle 3200 psi but liquefied O2 or CO2 or some other compressed gas might last a while. But the idea of charging an air tank at a gas station in today’s world is ridiculous.
If you want an electrical system for turn signals, headlights, radio, etc. then you’re asking a lot of a tank of air at any pressure less than 200 psi. If you want air conditioning and fan then you’re out of luck.
If you want a green car then figure out a way to get compressed air without a “non green” compressor.
I won’t start a conversation about everything I’ve seen but I’ve seen quite a few things that made more sense than this because the biggest problems are in the implementation.
I get the whole “think out of the box” idea and I understand the comments about the first hybrid cars and how they took a long time to evolve. But hybrid has been a viable solution for a very long time. This just doesn’t pass the test.
If you buy one of these cars, you should probably invest in a portable gasoline operated air compressor. Seriously, there are some really interesting open source projects including some rotary engines where some really smart folks have worked together to over come implementation issues.
I think the best use for this is a golf cart but don’t be fooled into thinking that it’s really “green”.
Similar negative comments abound for the electric car, which we see gaining traction despite the naysayers. It seems the obstacle to adoption rests less with the unfounded concearns of naysayers trolls and something more complex and elusive.
Of course the air car is a good idea and can be practically implemented. But as in most things, the genius is in the details. An almost infinite number of sustainable solutions have been offered and failed.
An investigation into this phenomena will reveal an understanding how the world of energy, and specifically the car industry, actually works. It’s not so straight forward, as the world presents an almost intractable environment for the implementation of new ideas.
For instance, when applying for a job, corporations will say they want passionate, out of the box thinkers. This is absolutely not the case, and will get you fired faster than incompetence. It’s a cynical pragmatic attitude the corporate professional is expected to read between the lines. Perhaps Russian Communists understand doubletalk, disinformation, and real politik, better than we do in the developed world.
We have an area in the brain which makes us want to fit in. It takes a special endeavour to stand outside the group. We are programmed to cooperate. New ideas threaten the status quo. You’ld have to be a pretty strong person to stand outside the protection of the group.
We generally follow a leader who we allow to strong arms us into compliance by offering himself as a buffer against the uncertainty of the world. We are risk averse. Risk could involve death, and we hate to face discomfort.