Join 3,432 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Bought myself a new Airmobile
July 19, 2005 3:25 PM   Subscribe

The Air Car. A car that runs on compressed air. While not a new idea, or unique, the MDI car can reach a speed of 68 mph and has a claimed range of roughly 124 miles. To recharge the tank, the car reportedly needs to be plugged into the grid for 3 to 4 hours or attached to an air pump in a gas station for only 2 minutes. Is the wind of the future about to break? Will this technology pass gas as our urban fuel of choice?
posted by Floydd (46 comments total)

 
That car looks angry.

Maybe Gas-X will make it feel better.
posted by Moral Animal at 3:31 PM on July 19, 2005


You said pass gas! Hahaha.

This is super cool and its obvious they put all their thought into the engine and mechanics of the car because damned if they aren't some butt ugly rides. But for a tenth the cost of a gas (sorry, petrol) powered ride, I'd drive one.

The air power angle isn't the only innovative aspect either. Seems the car has a few other tricks up its sleeve. Shame the video demo didn't work.

And, obligatory biker question, when will they make a two wheel version?
posted by fenriq at 3:38 PM on July 19, 2005


A Wired story from 2003. At that time, the range was only 7 km.

A thermodynamic analysis. Summary: from a back-of-the-envelope calculation, it looks promising for short distances.
posted by russilwvong at 3:48 PM on July 19, 2005


The very cool Museum of Retrotechnology has some coverage of compressed air vehicles from the 1800s including trains!
posted by glider at 3:52 PM on July 19, 2005


Does it fly? What's the point of an air car if it doesn't fly?
posted by Nelson at 3:54 PM on July 19, 2005


Cue Shell buying the patent for a trillionty dollars.
posted by fire&wings at 3:59 PM on July 19, 2005


You said pass gas! Hahaha.
I also implied "break wind," try to keep up.
The "Gas-X" line also presented itself, but I thought I'd limit myself to just two excellent puns per front page post.
I also missed the obvious safety asspect:
An elongated crack would appear in the tank, without exploding, and the air would simply escape, producing a loud but harmless noise.
Fart jokes; always funny, never fresh.
posted by Floydd at 4:11 PM on July 19, 2005


I don't understand why they all weigh the same (750kg). Shouldn't the family van be heavier than the 3 seat mini thereby giving the mini a longer range or higher speed?
posted by jmgorman at 4:14 PM on July 19, 2005


What can I say except "kewwwwwwwwwwwl." I really hope these catch on. Only not so much as to ruin our oil-based economy.
posted by Citizen Premier at 4:15 PM on July 19, 2005


Also, I find it odd that "Zero Pollution Motors" is working on a hybrid air-gas car. Maybe they need to change their company name.
posted by Citizen Premier at 4:17 PM on July 19, 2005


Floydd, I was there but I liked the pass gas one a little better because it reminded me of one of my new and favorite word rearrangements. "Passed gas" can be switched around to read "Gasped ass".

And yeah, I laughed when I read about the tank cracking wind!
posted by fenriq at 4:18 PM on July 19, 2005


That car looks angry.

it must be the articulated con-rod.
posted by quonsar at 4:24 PM on July 19, 2005


40% efficiency (maybe a bit less) is much better than the internal combustion engine were 20% isn't bad and 30% is top (or so I recall.)
posted by NewBornHippy at 4:33 PM on July 19, 2005


oil -> electricity -> compressed air (?)

How does this reduce dependency on oil again?
posted by OpinioNate at 4:36 PM on July 19, 2005


The price of air compressors skyrockets!
posted by Balisong at 4:38 PM on July 19, 2005


If you really wanted to, you could probably 'fuel' it up with a hand crank, that's the difference.
posted by Balisong at 4:39 PM on July 19, 2005


> How does this reduce dependency on oil again?

It offers a solution to storing energy that can be used to propel a vehicle (with increased efficiency at that.) Electricity can be producd from many sources, renewable or not, as you may already know.
posted by NewBornHippy at 4:41 PM on July 19, 2005


Heck, it should come with a hand crank off the bumper!
It might take a couple hours of cranking, but you could do it anywhere!! I say they make a round the world journey in the car, using only a hand crank, and two passengers, blog it, advertise it, and make millions of dollars. Free and clean!
posted by Balisong at 4:42 PM on July 19, 2005


Dump oil stocks. Buy your air futures now.
posted by Dukebloo at 4:45 PM on July 19, 2005


Dukebloo, I'm not buying air, I'm capturing as much of it as I can in all the balloons I can buy. And when I've cornered the market on air, all you suckers will be dying to get some........no wait a second, that won't work.

Balisong, why a crank on the bumper, why not one on the dash or next to the passenger seat so you could crank and go? Or how about one next to every seat in the car? Or why not replace the crank with some pedals attached to a chain and use that to propel the car?
posted by fenriq at 4:50 PM on July 19, 2005


Electricity can be producd from many sources, renewable or not, as you may already know.

Yea, good point. I guess I'm just pessimistic about that becoming common. Before, that is, we run out of oil.
posted by OpinioNate at 4:53 PM on July 19, 2005


Heck, add an additional crank INSIDE the vehicle and you've got perpetual motion (if we ignore the caloric cost to the human hamster).

on preview: FENRIQ GET OUT OF MY MIND
posted by cortex at 4:55 PM on July 19, 2005


OpinioNate: in the advent of a serious confrontation with PEAK OIL I wager we'll see renewable energy schemes start showing some muscle.

As is, solar has come pretty far in the last twenty years and wind is getting damned close to even with fossil (when people will actually SPRING for the goddam wind farms, of course).
posted by cortex at 4:57 PM on July 19, 2005


This car hates America.
posted by NewBornHippy at 5:00 PM on July 19, 2005


cortex, one problem with the wind farms near here (northern California) is that they were built too low to the ground and they turn flying birds into fertilizer constantly. But I love the idea of wind farms and would love to get a windmill or ten going to provide power for my house (assuming they can be made to not chop birds up).

And sorry for hanging out in your brain, I got bored in mine so I thought I'd go walkabout. Certainly is spacious in here......here.......here......here......

Just kidding.
posted by fenriq at 5:07 PM on July 19, 2005


To recharge the tank ... attached to an air pump in a gas station for only 2 minutes.

Um, sorry. Elsewhere it says that the onboard tank holds air at 4500 psi. Most gas stations these days can give 90 psi max. Lets install whomping big compressors at lots of gas stations to make this car practical.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 5:19 PM on July 19, 2005


I became skeptical when I read this:

Much has been said and written about the mileage of our vehicles and there has generally been a lot of unfounded speculation about the use of compressed air.

We have never claimed that the thermodynamic graphs of our engines would be adiabatic (nor are they isothermic).


That means the cars don't work as well when it's cold outside. They seem a bit defensive about this problem, and try to obfuscate it away with big scientific jargon.

Then I lost all trust in them when I read this:

Since it is necessary to produce electricity to recharge them, are your vehicles really clean?
Effectively, there is no technology that permits for completely pollution free vehicles.


Apparently they are unaware of solar cars, or sail boats, or bicycles.
posted by scottreynen at 5:22 PM on July 19, 2005


Okay, wait, you really can run a car on compressed air? Is it like blowing up a balloon and letting go of so it zips across the room, that principle?

Whee. I 'd buy myself a foot pump.
posted by davy at 5:30 PM on July 19, 2005


> That means the cars don't work as well when it's cold outside.

By how much? How much less power is generated by volume increase from the second stage pressure to ambiant pressure when it's 32 -vs 90 outside?

Note also that the altitude will have an impact.

But the colder it is outside, the better for compressed air storage.

Note that outside air temperature and density have an impact on the efficiency of the internal combustion engine.

> Is it like blowing up a balloon and letting go of so it zips across
> the room, that principle?

No, it's moving pistons, not using jet reaction.
posted by NewBornHippy at 5:49 PM on July 19, 2005


So essentially, you put the balloon in front of a turbine and hook that turbine up to a set of wheels. Say, doesn't that actually make it less efficient?
posted by Citizen Premier at 5:54 PM on July 19, 2005


Apparently they are unaware of solar cars, or sail boats, or bicycles.

Apparently you are unaware of the pollution involved in producing photovoltaic cells, batteries, iron alloys and rubber tires, the toxins leached from boat paint into the ocean...
posted by Jimbob at 6:06 PM on July 19, 2005


the toxins leached from boat paint into the ocean...

I'll bet that the effect of boat paint leaching toxins into the ocean is negligible.
posted by Balisong at 6:27 PM on July 19, 2005


So we'll convert to compressed air, or whatever technology is purported to be cleaner, and then the Chinese and Indian middle class will blast onto the scene, demanding suburbs and minivans (and toasters and blackberries and shiny polyester clothing). Even if we convert to a cleaner power plant for vehicles, the petroleum we use to make all of those billions of cars and their components (including hoses, dashboards, stereos ect--all that stuff is made from oil) will still be needed to be extracted and shipped.

A cleaner engine is a nice idea, but we have a bigger, more structural problem to address--that is, a decentralized society. Abundant oil made our lifestyle possible and there is no easy or cheap way to replace that very portable fuel. We have to deal with this problem now, when it is less painful than later, when the hmnnmm is going to hit the fan.
posted by recurve at 6:33 PM on July 19, 2005


True! If we have indeed reached peak oil, we need to save as much of that stuff for the plastics and polymers needed to make our Star-Trek like future that more streamlined, and tamper proof.

The time for burning oil as fuel has, indeed passed.

I'll be in the basement melting down all my LP's if you need me.. (I already ripped all the information retreivable from them, anyways..)
posted by Balisong at 6:45 PM on July 19, 2005


What recurve said -- as Bill McKibben has pointed out, as long as we have really long supply lines for such things as the food we eat (i.e., as long as we insist on shipping produce from Mexico to New York City on a regular basis), incremental changes in vehicle fuel efficiency aren't going to save us. Not that this air car idea isn't cool.

Also...

I'll bet that the effect of boat paint leaching toxins into the ocean is negligible.

Maybe when you consider the ocean at large. But at least some people are concerned about how they might affect something like the ecosystem of a bay. For example, according to this document, anti-fouling paints are designed to leach substances into the water. I don't know if they're correct, of course. But it's not altogether dismissable at first glance.

/digression
posted by BT at 6:46 PM on July 19, 2005


But that's California!
Give me a real world example.
posted by Balisong at 6:50 PM on July 19, 2005


I'll bet that the effect of boat paint leaching toxins into the ocean is negligible.

Whether it's negligable or not, it's an extremely sensitive issue among boat owners, not least because tributyltin — the stuff that works, i.e., that keeps shit from growing on your boat — is banned in the US, but only for boats less than 82 feet [source]. So the uber-rich with 100-foot yachts and the major shipping companies get to use what they want while the average boater with a 30-foot sloop has to scrub (and probably re-paint) the bottom of his boat every other thing, at significant expense. Many boaters have tributyltin illegally applied outside the US, in the Caribbean or South America.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 7:21 PM on July 19, 2005


I heard that you mix a pint of Tobasco sauce(tm) in your paint mix, and the barnicles choose to stay away.

Unless you get cajun barnicles, I guess.
posted by Balisong at 7:47 PM on July 19, 2005


the bi-energy range of 2000km is impressive (conventional fuel + air). What's the average range of a normal car?
posted by spacediver at 11:20 PM on July 19, 2005


A real world example of boat paint toxins can be found near any part of the coast or river where boats are stored. The anti-fouling paint leeches in the water and then tends to settle in the mud on the bottom; the paint being mostly based on heavy metals.

I was peripherally involved with work near in a marina in Cornwall. The owners had to get a license to dispose of the mud from the creek bottom as it was considered hazardous waste because of the past use of anti-fouling paint by boats in the marina.

I would agree with recurve; urban areas need to be rethought and the pedestrian plus public transport or bicycle needs to be given priority not cars, however powered.
posted by lerrup at 11:33 PM on July 19, 2005


Kind of neat how, just as your alternator recharges a battery while running, ...the belt turns a compressor that works to recompress the air tank.
posted by thisisdrew at 7:16 AM on July 20, 2005


There should be a hand crank on the inside of each door. Then tell your passengers it's for the window. "It's probably just stuck. Try harder!"
posted by Sibrax at 8:50 AM on July 20, 2005


you could put chain-drive pedals in front of the passenger seats, and make the passengers pedal to compress the air! work it!
posted by eustatic at 10:27 AM on July 20, 2005


OpinioNate writes "oil -> electricity -> compressed air (?)"

We can use wind and hydro turbine directly to compress the air.

lerrup writes "I was peripherally involved with work near in a marina in Cornwall. The owners had to get a license to dispose of the mud from the creek bottom as it was considered hazardous waste because of the past use of anti-fouling paint by boats in the marina."

"An interesting related item is that cleaning up the Hudson River has
had an unexpected consequence. The most damaging thing to a wooden
boat bottom is a toredo worm which can grow several feet long and just
keep munching the wood as it bores a holes. Now that the River is
cleaner, these worms are back. Much of river front (East river too) is
bordered with large piers - some 800 or more feet long. These are
supported by creosoted pilings, and of course the creosote is pretty
well gone after a number of years of strong river currents washing by
them. These pilings were getting eaten left and right so a few years
ago the City started a program of having divers grease each piling and
wrapping it in heavy plastic. Early reports are that it works, but
they still have a way to go to treat all 2,000,000 pilings."
posted by Mitheral at 1:05 PM on July 20, 2005


oil -> electricity -> compressed air (?)

Actually, not in France, where 80% of electricity is generated by nuclear power stations.

Anyway, this whole compressed air car business is a tad suspicious, to say the least. They were supposed to have sold 40000 taxis to Mexico...5 years ago!
posted by Skeptic at 3:16 PM on July 20, 2005


I want a single passenger version of this that's even lighter. I believe this is made by the same people that are *almost done* with the Moller sky car.
posted by mecran01 at 4:49 PM on July 20, 2005


« Older "Square America is a site dedicated to preserving ...  |  the Supreme Court Short List... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments