Experimental Electric Vehicles

December 8, 2012

Compressed Air Power, Is It Real, or Just Hot Air?

Filed under: Uncategorized — tonyhelms @ 10:57 am

All of us are familiar with air, and most of us are famaliar with the power of compressed air. Its easy to see the potental energy in compressed air by going to any local auto shop and watching the air tools they use exert extreme energy. Compressed air is ecentally stored electrical energy, much like a battery, just in a different form.

The idea of using compressed air as a vehicle energy source has always intrigued me. Recently a company in Australia built a working prototype of a motorcross air powered motorcycle with fairly impressive numbers!

air power

Link to the article – http://phys.org/news/2012-11-yamaha-frame-bike-scuba-tank-dyson.html

I do see a few flaws in the current idea of trying to impliment air powered vehicles.

First I wouldn’t say there “easy to fill” since there’s pretty much no infrastructure, Other then scuba filling shops which will charge 10~15 dollars to refill a tank to the stated 2,900 psi, because no household or even professional shop compressor can reach that pressure. Also with current technology the tank would have to be physically removed and placed in a bath of water to keep it cool during filling.

As for cost to “fill-up” at an average $12.50 (some scuba shops I called) would make the operating cost 20 cents per mile. Even a decent 250cc gasoline motorcycle can achieve about 7~12 cents per mile at $4 per gallon gas. This is where EV motorcycles (and drivetrains) shine, it costs about 50 cents to fully recharge my motorcycle, including the 15% inefficiency of the charger. Condescendingly enough my motorcycle also has a 60 mile range, therefore it achieves an efficiency of .008 cents per mile!

Like the hydrogen engine and fuel cell idea, it unfortunatly seriously lacks infrastructure. If someone gave you a hydrogen or air powered vehicle tomorrow, where would you fill it? But electricity is everywhere, literally every building and house has it right there to charge batteries or capacitors for your transportation. And with the rapidly expanding charge point, blink, and chademo network, high power, fast recharging will soon be available at every popular mall, theater, and restaurant (like in California already) and that’s if you require a charge!

air power motor

Although infrastructure for compressed air energy would be vastly easier then the others to implement since it only requires the installation of a high pressure air compressor and electrical hook-up. Where as crude oil, hydrogen, ethanol, and natural gas requires refinement, compression (sometimes), and physical transportation to stations. Using energy to transport energy, which is poor use of energy and very inefficient.


There have been some interesting ideas of mixing the EV drivetrain with an air powered generator that could be filled rapidly at stations, probably more likely to be on a car since there’s more room for that multilple energy systems.

In conclusion, Currently electric vehicles have far better efficiencies, infastructure, and energy storage. I would perfer to see the contuning integreation and development of air energy storage for vehicle power. I believe it has vast advantages over current energys derivered from crude oil becasue it of its renewable factor combined with a simpler infrastructure to construct.

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