La voiture qui pompe l'air

La voiture qui pompe l'air
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Publié le 27 février 2009
  • Reportage: Zian Marro
  • Montage: Ulrich Teiger

La petite voiture à trois roues pétarade sous le regard amusé des visiteurs. Dans la zone industrielle de Carroz, près de Nice, les tests et les démonstrations vont bon train. « On la pilote avec un joystick, comme un Airbus ! » sourit Guy Nègre, l'inventeur de la voiture à air comprimé. L'homme a le sens de la formule, et des arguments de vente: vitesse de pointe 70 km/h et 1 euro d'air comprimé pour une autonomie de 220 km en ville.


Rendement entre 36% et 48%


Ces chiffres proviennent de simulations informatiques et certains spécialistes n'y croient pas. « Cela me paraît vraiment difficile d'atteindre une autonomie suffisante avec de tels véhicules » doute Daniel Favrat, directeur de l'Institut de génie mécanique à l'EPFL, « 300 litres d'air comprimé à 300 bars [pour les véhicules plus grands, ndlr], cela représente au maximum 1,2 litres d'essence. C'est extrêmement faible. » Guy Nègre insiste sur le rendement de ses véhicules. « En air comprimé pur, le rendement énergétique global […] se situe entre 36% et 48% » explique le motoriste français, « comparativement, en ville, le rendement d'une voiture à essence est de 9%. Pour un diesel, c'est 13%. » Reste que, selon Daniel Favrat, la voiture électrique a plus d'avenir. Son rendement est supérieur à 50%. Seul bémol, les véhicules électriques sont encore trop lourd. Les voitures à air comprimé de la société français devraient elle atteindre à peine 500 kilogrammes!

Mais Guy Nègre ne veut se bat pas uniquement sur le terrain technologique. Il veut également révolutionner la production et la distribution de ses véhicules. Fini les énormes usines et les coûteux transports vers les concessionnaires. « La voiture va être fabriquée dans l'arrière boutique du concessionnaire » explique l'ingénieur de Carroz. Le client viendrait donc chercher sa voiture directement à l'usine.



Des voitures chez Swissmetal?


L'idée a séduit Henri-Philippe Sambuc. Cet avocat genevois veut se lancer dans le business des voitures à air comprimé. Il a créé une société avec des investisseurs privés, puis acheté la licence de production pour la Suisse. La société de Carroz fournit l'usine clé en main, mais il faut d'abord trouver un terrain. Et c'est en plein milieu du Jura, à Courgenay, que maître Sambuc a trouvé son bonheur. « La société a pris une option, valable jusqu'à fin 2009, sur un terrain de 17'000 mètres carrés pour le cas échéant l'acquérir et construire la première usine de fabrication-production des véhicules à air comprimé » se réjouit l'avocat.

Comme rien n'est encore sûr, Henri-Philippe Sambuc étudie aussi une autre solution. Et là, surprise! Il verrait bien sa chaîne de production dans l'usine aujourd'hui inexploitée de Swissmetal, à Reconvilier. La Boillat, l'usine même qui a vu se dérouler la grève de 2006. « Il y aurait environ 150 employés et un maximum 12'000 véhicules par an » explique le futur patron.

Les premières voitures pourraient sortir d'usine en 2010 déjà. Un calendrier peut-être un peu optimiste puisque ces véhicules doivent encore être homologués. En attendant, la société française présentera ces prototypes au Salon de l'Auto de Genève.





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