Alternative fuels have been bandied about for a while, including methane, natural gas, hydrogen gas or even vegetable oil, but how about air? It isn’t a joke, as there is such a thing as a compressed air car and a joint venture car between French carmakers Peugeot and Citroen running on it is due by 2016.
Liberty, egality and compressed air car for qualified buyers
Wouldn’t it be nice to use a less expensive fuel than gasoline? There are options, like electric cars, natural gas cars, etc. But what about air?
Sounds ridiculous. However, according to the Daily Mail, European dealerships could sell them by 2016. A Peugeot-Citroen joint venture is producing a hybrid drivetrain that switches between running on gasoline and compressed air. It’s not for a bespoke model, rather an equipment package called Hybrid Air, for Peugeot and Citroen cars.
Small cars, likely the Peugeot 208 and Citroen C4, will be first. Don’t bother with a car loan from a bank; neither brand has been sold stateside since the days when Member’s Only jackets were fashionable and Slayer ruled.
Just kidding. Slayer still rules. Reigns, one might say.
Novel and efficient
Hybrid Air uses compressed air to power the car at low speeds, in essence a gas-compressed air hybrid. During city driving, the car will run on naught but air below 43 miles per hour, though the gas engine can be used. Once at 43 mph, the gas engine kicks in. A 45 percent cut in gas consumption is projected for normal use, up to 80 percent for city dwellers who rarely hit the highway. The air tank will automatically replenish, as the car has a self-regulating on-board compressor.
The spare tire, though, gets le boot.
[To Get The Absolute Best Bargain On A New Or Used Car, Van, Truck or SUV Look At Magic Scion Edmunds Wa Now!]
Peugeot and Citroen believe that 117 miles per gallon is attainable with their compressed air car by 2020. It’s also slated to be 1,000 pounds (about $1,600) cheaper than an electric hybrid system.
The mechanism for a compressed air car isn’t complicated. As HowStuffWorks points out, physics dictates gases expand to fill a confined space. To drive the engine, all you need is temperature and pressure.
Basically, compressed air is pumped into the engine while being heated. This forces the air to expand – Boyle’s law, anyone? – which increases pressure. That forces pistons to pump, driving the engine’s crankshaft and output shaft.
The limitations, as Popular Mechanics points out, are limited range for air-only vehicles due to air storage capacity, and abysmally low torque. Gas-compressed air hybrids, like the Hybrid Air, make more sense.
Not new either
Pneumatic motors, engines using compressed air, aren’t new. Wikipedia, the Great Internet Oracle, reports the first compressed air car was devised and successfully tested by a couple of Frenchmen in 1840. Scattered attempts were made after that, but none caught on.
Pneumatic trains were more successful, such as the Mekarski pneumatic engine, which was employed by public trams in Nantes, France from 1879 to 1917, among other applications worldwide. American engineer Charles Hodges, devised a pneumatic locomotive engine in the 1890s, which the H.K. Porter Company bought and successfully sold for use in the mining industry.
CNET reports the Motor Development Institute, a French outfit, has been making air-powered concepts since the mid-2000s. In 2008, Tata Motors enlisted MDI to get one ready for the production line. They produced a joint venture, Zero Pollution Motors, which was supposed to produce a gas-compressed air hybrid not unlike the Hybrid Air system, according to Gizmag. Since then, the company has fizzled.
Aussie news report on compressed air cars