Compressed Air Powered Car: The AIRpod
Though slow, compressed air technology is beginning to thrive finding its way this time into a French revolutionary green car, The AIRpod. Spotting three wheels, the AIRpod is intended as both a three or four seater, weighs only 220 kg, five and a half horse power, uses a joystick for steering and can reach top speeds of 40 mph plus. Refilling of the compressed air will take about 90 seconds for about Euros 1.10. The AIRpod has an expected kilometre range of 220.
For a little background, compressed air cars use motors driven by compressed air. This technology can be used alone or be combined, like in hybrid cars, with alternative fuels like diesel and gasoline.
Compressed air is stored in tanks at high pressures such as 4500psi and the compressed air is expanded just as steam is expanded in steam engines. The storage tanks used are more often than not of carbon fiber since the material is light and strong plus it is considered safer because when it cracks it does not produce shrapnels.
At the exhaust, compressed air cars are considered to be free of emission but since the primary source of energy is electricity thus the total environmental impact really depends on the electricity source. This said, if wind power was used to compress the air, virtually zero percent emissions would be achieved.
Advantages of this technology mainly are:
- Air compression can be done at home or at service stations.
- It is generally cheaper to produce compressed air engines since components like mufflers, spark plugs, starter motors and cooling systems need not be built.
- The self discharge rate is lower than that of batteries used in electric cars.
A broad disadvantage of this technology is that energy is used to compress the air so the resultant environmental impact largely depends on the primary energy source.
Such cars are yet to hit the green mass market which has been dominated by hybrids thus far but the AIRpod is doubtlessly a great start.