Some of the most interesting car makers are the small, boutique companies that technically create vehicles but not really for the commercial sales market. France is particularly loaded with this kind of automotive innovators and customizers.
The story of the Rumen 4-Stroke begins in Sophia Bulgaria in1944 (still under Soviet control) with the birth of Roumen Antonov. Antonov graduated with a degree in Nuclear Physics though he studied engineering and design because of his interest in automobiles. He was also passionate about medicine and worked to cure atherosclerosis. His most notable contribution to automotive innovations was designing the direct shift gearbox.
Noteworthy: Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG) automates two separate “manual” gearboxes (and clutches) contained within one housing and working as one unit. By using two independent clutches, a DSG can achieve faster shift times and eliminates the torque converter of a conventional epicyclic automatic transmission.
Antonov moved to Le Mesnil-Amelot, France (1998) where he was able to build a prototype car–a rebodied Toyota Aygo made to resemble the Bugatti Atlantic of 1938. The power for this car was an unconventional, valveless, four-stroke engine connected to the Antonov Automatic Drive transmission. The prototype made two appearances; at the 2002 Paris Motor Show and at the 2005 Frankfurt Motor Show. Antonov saw the car as appealing to wealthy women in the US and UK and felt that building the car in France suggested high-end luxury and refinement.
The cars body is carbon fiber composite on steel frame and it was powered by a three-cylinder 998cc engine with a five speed sequential semi-automatic gearbox. All for a meager $70,000 in 2007.
This French conglomerate headquartered in Puteaux, on the western outskirts of Paris, France was officially founded in1822. In 2004, the group ranked amongst the top 200 European companies with interests worldwide from olive groves in the US to oil storage and pipelines in France.
Bolloré manufactures the Bolloré Bluecar, a small electric car, initially produced to showcase the company’s range of electric power cells. The Bluecar was introduced in December 2011 as part of the Autolib’ carsharing service in Paris.
Bollore’s key to success seems to be partnerships like the one they formed with Pininfarina, to create a concept car, the Pininfarina B0 (“B Zero”) a four-seat hatchback featuring a roof-integrated solar panel with a solid-state lithium-polymer battery, supercapacitors, for a 153 mile range. Or the one they have with Autolib to charge electric vehicles and eBikes at stations around Europe.
Bolloré Bluebus 22 is a 6-metre-long electric microbus with a capacity of 22 passengers of which only two have been made, but we await updates on the future of this project.
MDI – Motor Development International
This Luxembourg-French based company designs products in both mobility and energy storage using a compressed air engine.
Established by Guy Nègre with company headquarters in Luxembourg and production departments based in Carros in southeastern France. The company’s goal is an environmentally sound way to move people. Their approach is quite novel.
As a company MDI marketed their zero-emission technology to car companies around the globe with several takers buying the license to the technology pioneered by MDI, including a company called Zero Pollution Motors in the United States. However, when MDI didn’t produce a finished production model most of the companies haven’t done anything with the tech. The project remained theoretically possible from 2009 to 2012 when Tata motors of India succeeded in putting an MDI designed motor in one of their cars.
Confusion ensued as news spread that Tata motors would begin production of the MDI OneCat prototype, but was cleared up eventually. 2016 was a eventful year for MDI as founder Guy Nègre, passed away and they became one of eight finalists for the United Nations‘ Powering The Future We Want program. Losing that program didn’t kill the company however, and Tata Motors announced a year later that they had completed the industrialization phase of development and were on track to start making cars in 2020. The pandemic has no doubt caused delays in these plans but the world may yet see a commuter car that runs on compressed air.
This leaves only one question. How environmentally sound will the power be that compresses the air into the tank on the vehicle. Still, by eliminating the non-recyclable batteries which need components you get by strip mining and weigh a thousand extra pounds per car, there are significant advantages over EV’s. It’s too bad the United Nations went all in on EV’s for some reason…