Drive on air.
September 20, 2002 12:08 PM   Subscribe

Drive on air. A new engine design that not only runs on air, but cleans it too.
posted by chrisroberts (33 comments total)
Of course, it has an extremely dangerous"fuel tank". A 1500 PSI scuba tank can create a nasty explosion if ruptured, this thing is 4500 PSI. (This info from the Ars Technica thread on this article.)
posted by malphigian at 12:16 PM on September 20, 2002

Dangerous, shmangerous. The inventor is French, the people who live on cheese, alcohol and cigarettes. What's an explosion or two?

If this does find a way to become a commercially-viable (ie, non-exploding) car, that would be fantastic.
posted by Salmonberry at 12:25 PM on September 20, 2002

I'm getting very tired of waiting for some of these prototype cars (fuel cell, air, etc.) to come from the testing stage to the pragmatic and available stage. Don't get me wrong, I'm very excited about the prospects for the future, but I'm starting to grow very impatient. Does anyone know of a practical time line for the next big breakthrough (assuming GM doesn't start fire-bombing whoever does it)?
posted by Ufez Jones at 12:31 PM on September 20, 2002

Let's hybridize one of these with a Zero Blaster and get a car that leaves little fog rings in the air behind it!
posted by wanderingmind at 12:33 PM on September 20, 2002

i'm tired of cars like this getting called "zero emissions" when the factory that produces the electricity which charges the pumps that compress the air has bucketloads of emissions
posted by yesster at 12:34 PM on September 20, 2002

yesster: The vehicle itself is zero emissions, but thats just not the same thing as saying "has no impact on the environment".

Solar, Wind, Water, Geothermal, and Nuclear power sources are all without emissions (all with varying other downsides), and the other types of power plants (coal,etc) are much more efficient than IC engines. Certainly all of it makes an impact, I believe the point is this is a significant reduction in that impact.
posted by malphigian at 12:40 PM on September 20, 2002

Timeline for Cleveland: pending funding, within 2-3 years
"The new facility will refuel natural gas, hydrogen, and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, utilizing on-site natural gas. "

(Unless you're in CA, you'll have to hustle to catch Cleveland ...)
posted by sheauga at 12:47 PM on September 20, 2002


Pass the Gauloises & Pernod, s'il vous plait...
posted by Pressed Rat at 12:48 PM on September 20, 2002

Negre, who was interviewed through an interpreter, explains that, in the tanks, the air is both cooled to minus 100 degrees Centigrade and compressed to 4,500 pounds per square inch.
Great, now we'll have global cooling!
posted by zanpo at 12:55 PM on September 20, 2002

Brody: [with gun aimed at shark] Smile you son of a bitch!
posted by Tacodog at 1:05 PM on September 20, 2002

A car that eliminates the need for oil? Clearly, this is an act of war on the part of France. :P
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:18 PM on September 20, 2002

4500 psi should be more than safe with modern tank design--the hydrogen fuel cell people are thinking of jumping to 10,000 psi, and due to some public misconceptions about hydrogen, and the genuine dangers of that kind of pressure, they have to be damn sure thy can prove it's safe before doing something like that.

Basically, with this car, the compressed air tank is acting as a battery--storing energy that the car gets from electricity, hopefully very efficiently. Unfortunately the most I could find (admittedly after a quick search, I'm busy today) about the efficiency of the car was the following quote:

"He says the energy efficiency levels of his vehicles compared favourably with those of petrol, diesel and electric engines."

That really doesn’t mean much, as a gasoline engine runs at about 20% efficiency.

This is an interesting idea as compared to fuel cells. Both work as energy storage, but the compressed air engine does not require nearly the manufacturing energy that a fuel cell takes. On the other hand, I think a fuel cell can extract more of the available energy from its fuel, and there is the possibility for biological sources of hydrogen, which would allow us to use organic waste to generate it.
posted by Nothing at 1:21 PM on September 20, 2002

Quick, what country has a lot of air? We'll need to declare war on them pretty soon.
posted by Hildago at 1:35 PM on September 20, 2002

Car pulls into gas station.
Driver: Uh, sir you have air?
Station Attendant: Yes sir in the back and it will cost you 50cents.
Attendant: Hey you need gas?
Driver: No, I have a new car, an AirCarGo.
Attendant to owner: You may want to change the price of air.
Owner: Charge for air, it's free, take a breathe.
Attendant: So was water, you want an Evian.
Owner: Na I'll use the hose out back.

PS, didn't the martian rovers used recently use air or something?
posted by thomcatspike at 1:44 PM on September 20, 2002

Yeah, that high compression is scary, but I still think Hydrogen has good potential for portable clean energy storage. It came up in this thread about Ford pulling the plug on their Electric car.

I was very disappointed in that article. It didn't deal with any of the obvious technical or safety issues. That's an MIT publication? Sheesh! It read more like a company brochure. Thanks malphigian for the balance of the Ars Technica link.

And they say it's noisy. Plus can you imagine what kind of noise the compressor makes for the home fill-up option. I bet it will make your neighbors long for the days when you only had a leaf blowers, and lawn mower. Well maybe it's not as loud or lethal as I imagine.
posted by gametone at 1:55 PM on September 20, 2002

So would a back fire be a belch?. Blurp, excuse me, the car, it has gas.
posted by thomcatspike at 2:17 PM on September 20, 2002

Car pulls in to a mechanic's shop.
Car: blurb, hiccup, burp
Driver: Sir, I need my car fixed.
Mechanic: What seems to be the trouble with the car.
Driver: It has gas.
Mechanic: That's a problem, what can I do?
Driver: Burp it for me.

So would a back fire be a belch then?
posted by thomcatspike at 2:23 PM on September 20, 2002

I wasn't exactly claiming it was false advertising to call this car "zero emissions." I'm just saying it is kinda like calling chocolate brownies "FAT FREE," -- it is true, but misleading. Eliminate all the fat you want - eating a whole box of brownies ain't gonna lose you weight; and moving emissions from the car to the power plant isn't clean energy.
posted by yesster at 2:25 PM on September 20, 2002

and moving emissions from the car to the power plant isn't clean energy.

Right, regardless of your energy storage mechanism - chemical cell, hydrogen, compressed air, fly wheels, etc... - you need to charge it up. Nonetheless, I'm all in favor of getting those (battery powered) things on the road. That way, as soon as clean energy happens, we can reap the benefits more quickly by upgrading or replacing a few plants than by waiting for all the millions of drivers out there to get around to buying a newer (and probably more expensive) car.
posted by badstone at 2:50 PM on September 20, 2002

The major problem with this scheme is: if you run out of air on the highway -- and at the pressures being used, a slow leak is almost inevitable -- how are you going to fetch a gallon of "fuel" from the nearest air station?
posted by kindall at 3:18 PM on September 20, 2002

Sure this car isn't "emmision free" since the plant surely generates emmisions, however... same goes for gas. Only with gas cars the car also generates emmisions.
posted by f00b4r at 3:41 PM on September 20, 2002

the plant only generates emissions if it's an emissions-generating plant. As mentioned earlier in this thread, solar, wind, hydroelectric, geothermal, etc. produce no emissions of their own.
posted by 40 Watt at 3:48 PM on September 20, 2002

Sounds great. Sign me up.
posted by sklero at 4:29 PM on September 20, 2002

The major problem with this scheme is: if you run out of air on the highway -- and at the pressures being used, a slow leak is almost inevitable -- how are you going to fetch a gallon of "fuel" from the nearest air station?

Insert a rubber hose into the relevant orifice and head for Taco Bell.

Then you can affix a bumper sticker, just like the buses: "Powered by clean, natural gas."
posted by Wet Spot at 6:21 PM on September 20, 2002

The major problem with this scheme is: if you run out of air on the highway -- and at the pressures being used, a slow leak is almost inevitable -- how are you going to fetch a gallon of "fuel" from the nearest air station?

That's assuming that you survive the experience of venturing out on the highway, because at 55 mph you're likely to get run over by traffic.
posted by epimorph at 8:38 PM on September 20, 2002

eh hehehe.

I thought, however, that compressed air cars existed already. I believe Mexico already has a "fleet" of several hundred. I'll have to look it up.
posted by firestorm at 8:46 PM on September 20, 2002

firestorm, you're probably thinking of compressed natural gas -- which is one of the more successful alternative fuels out there. The logistics difficulties mean it's only an appropriate choice for businesses that have fleets of many identical vehicles which cover a limited range, like metropolitan bus systems, or maintenance vehicles for utilities.

For right now, the only viable choice for your basic residential consumer is a hybrid -- some of them are quite decent, even if they don't meet the ideal of zero emissions.

Hmm, though, darned if you aren't right -- but it's the same guy, you know, Guy, Guy Negre. Apparently the contracts were in place 2 years ago but he's only now nearing production. If anyplace needs "eco-taxis", though, it's Mexico City! Up to date information on MDI's production; MDI's official site {in English}. If the MIT article sounds peppy, it's probably because it was based in part on a prospectus they've been sending around. Also, he claims that the tanks used are designed for methane gas, and made of fiberglass, so they will "crack longitudinally" rather than explode as metallic tanks do.
posted by dhartung at 10:56 PM on September 20, 2002

As mentioned earlier in this thread, solar, wind, hydroelectric, geothermal, etc. produce no emissions of their own.

Excepting the emissions from building these plants. The manufacture of solar panels, for example, requires a lot of energy and produces arsenic, cadmium and gallium.
posted by skyline at 11:29 AM on September 21, 2002

the making of stuff takes stuff and effort

Damn entropy. Damn it to hell!
posted by geoff. at 12:39 PM on September 21, 2002

Yet, I don't hear this argument when it comes to GM or Shell. Funny how that works.

That's because no one is touting oil as a magical solution for energy. If these technologies can work effectively, then great. I'm just sick of hearing about these "clean" technologies that no one is implementing for, apparently, some conspiratorial purpose.

(How were two factual sentences enough for you to decide I'm pro-oil, skallas?)
posted by skyline at 3:27 PM on September 21, 2002

even as we speak a cadre' of trained killers from halliburton are entering the country. as for the press articles, winston will be working late tonight.
posted by quonsar at 4:14 PM on September 21, 2002

If one wanted to make a city smell nice, could one fill the tanks with air that had just a hint of lilac?

Better still, maybe food vendors could sponsor these cars, and pay the owners to have them distribute the scent of, say, McDonald's french fries, or buttered popcorn (which always sucks me in at the movie theater)? Imagine a car that took in stale city air and pushed chocolate truffle smell out its tailpipe! Mmm-mmm!
posted by mr_crash_davis at 7:38 PM on September 21, 2002

Transferring energy production from the vehicle itself to a commercial power plant solves two problems. First, the concentration of production allows for concentration of efficiency, conservation, and pollution mitigation. Second, the production takes place away from city centers, where the vast majority of vehicle pollution is found.

When Ford ran those ads about cleaner engines "for my mountains", it was a bit silly, because the primary reason to seek cleaner-burning vehicle engines is to reduce pollution in urban areas, for human health.

Finally, the commercial power plant may itself get its energy from a clean or renewable source.

Nothing is perfect, and there are trade-offs for every choice. But there are plenty of good, solid reasons to look at ways to use the commerical power grid to run vehicles.
posted by dhartung at 9:52 PM on September 21, 2002

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