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New "Air Car" to work like steam locomotive

5166 Views 44 Replies 18 Participants Last post by  Torby
A new "Air Car" is being developed to work like a steam locomotive, but uses air instead of steam:

air car
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I've been thinking about a personal vehicle (alternate energy transportation) for sixty years, all on paper save for an early attempt to attach my dog to my Radio Flyer. A number of drawbacks at once became apparent, chief being the defiance of the motive power.

With six-plus decades of age and experience, I've concluded that most folks dreaming of 'alternate energy' vehicles miss the obvious: interfacing with existing technology and social acceptance. Skip the technical issues a focus on human engineering for a moment:

1. What about sitting in traffic for hours on a hot/cold day? Where's the air conditioner/heater? With two or three children aboard.

2. These things, until the H.P. equivalent of at least a modern 4-cylinder gas engine is developed, are not practical on a daily basis. Consider the motorcycle.

3. They are inherently unsafe because of lack of size and mass. Are you going to load your family in what will have to be essentially a polymer eggshell and take off down the highway? Why are SUV's so popular?

4. There is a real, though indirect, connection between 'alt-enery' vehicles and government coercion. One example is the 'safety standards' that keep otherwise very functional and inexpensive Third World cars out of the country. Another is the herd instinct of people in a generalized way. Joggers and bicyclists report abuse. A few deserve it.

5. The best solution to the 'transportation problem' is the internal combustion engine as we now have it. Otherwise, something else would force its way into the marketplace--which itself is a fundamental, dynamic entity with real power though outside the point I'm trying to make--despite real (and imagined) 'vested interests'. A review of the problems of social acceptance of very early autos is a sufficient example. ("Hey Mister, get a horse!")

6. My own thinking consists of essentially a 'stretch riding lawnmower' with the following modifications: 10 mi max range on electric, 25mph top speed, minimal shelter from the elements, sprung suspension, sidewalk or at best sidestreet operating environment, lead acid battery power (two) with solar cells for recharge only, a ~6 hp 1 cyl engine/generator for standby power and recharging for extended range and when away from home, since the sun doesn't shine every day in my neck of the woods, fore & aft seating for two people, and a trunk large enough to carry a week's worth of groceries. It'll look like what it is: a homemade contraption, just like the first cars looked like horse-drawn buggies. But it'll fill the basic transportation needs for two retired folks.

The features I'm interested in are:

1) Simplicity of design tending toward home construction.

2) Ease of maintenance and repair.

3) Meet basic requirements defined as grocery-getting, trips to doctor, to church or idling about town with the ability to haul a 200-300# payload.

Why bother since it will be inherently inefficient?

It'll be cheap to operate, possible to maintain with basic skills, and very affordable. It's real economic value will be in lessened use of the 'real' Detroit Plastic.

Will it ever be popular? No. The early Tin Lizzies are high-end collector's items, today. Would you drive one daily as your only vehicle?

Les W.
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Go to http://www.rqriley.com/license.htm and take a look at requirements for licensing and insuring a homebuilt. I learned a lot I didn't know, primarily why guys bother to electrify old Geo Metros and Fords. That's a lot of iron to drag around on battery power. You have to title, license and insure a vehicle driven on the streets, at least in MO. And it must meet regulations that are pretty close to Federal, in most states. That's the gist of the article. By building a 3-wheeler, you get lots of breaks on the regs, though.

That's why I chose a narrow enough wheelbase to work on a sidewalk. The longest trip I'd have to make on a routine basis is 2.5 miles. Grocery, hardware, doctor and favorite fast food are less than that distance.

My take on compressed air is that it is wholly impractical for general public use. Compressed air for mine engines was a good solution until electricity became practical, as I understand it.

About exploding gas tanks: the infamous Pinto aside, the statistical rate of gas tank explosions from accidents seems remarkably low, compared to the number out there. Perhaps they're underreported.

Heh, I too remember a tricked-out battery sidewalk job from when I was a teenager. (And public Go Kart tracks, and races in supermarket parking lots--showing my age). No suspension.
That's great for young folks, but I've made enough beer runs on my riding lawnmower to not want to continue doing that. (One mile).

The thing that I'm looking for is a good 24V electric motor sufficient to move ~900#, gross weight, ten miles w/o a huge battery array. Might not even be possible. I'm no physicist, for sure. Don't even know anyone who can make the calculations.

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Posted By Road Foreman on 08/11/2008 6:11 PM
Before you get bummed out, take a week & read the laws of Mo.. You will be suprised I am sure.. The same is true in Ks..


At my age, I might not have a week. /DesktopModules/NTForums/themes/mls/emoticons/crying.gif

Could you give me a couple of very short instances where MO is more lienient? I'm no fan of three-wheelers, for sure. And there is a large difference in regs for a 4 wheeler vs a 3.

Also, in another post, someone mentioned driving on interstates. THAT, I would never even consider in a battery-mobile, particularly a small one. 'Road Kill' leaps to mind.

Okay, thanks for the hedzup. I'll start looking into licensing/ins here in MO for homebuilts.

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Posted By markoles on 08/12/2008 8:02 AM
In your post, your 4th comment:
4. There is a real, though indirect, connection between 'alt-enery' vehicles and government coercion. One example is the 'safety standards' that keep otherwise very functional and inexpensive Third World cars out of the country. Another is the herd instinct of people in a generalized way. Joggers and bicyclists report abuse. A few deserve it.
I was reading a few years ago about a guy who was trying to start importing chinese made cars. The retail price would have been something in the $3500 range for a brand new car. That would have killed all other car sales for most of the auto market. On the other hand, it allows the the current auto makers to keep making their current margins. What was interesting to me when I was in China a few years back was the number of Buicks and VW's. I guess the Chinese auto makers have ramped up production to meet the growing demand.

/// In China, there's a vast gap in social classes. Did you happen to note the vast number of bicycles, motorbikes and the like?

I am confused, however, by your last two sentences. What abuse are joggers and bicyclists reporting?

///Cyclists report deliberately being run off the road, etc. Both they and joggers report things being thrown at them. Female joggers report harrassment.///

snip I am very aware of my actions and watch very closely everyone else's movements. I try and be as deliberate and predictable when 'playing in traffic', and to date have been very successful.

///I, personally, almost hit a jogger--a man much older than I--who, as I rolled up the the neighborhood intersection, plodded out from behind a large bush and almost ran into the side of my car. He yelled, "Thank you--right-of-way, you **!" I remarked to my wife that anyone who runs into the street from behind a bush is living on borrowed time. The people I know who jog say they have to be careful, even wearing bright clothes. Cyclists are rare on our heavily-travelled streets, because motorists around here do not see why joggers OR bikes should be cluttering up the lanes. That's just the way it is here in River City. (Florissant).///

Ad claims 40 miles before it uses any gas. Then, with the on board 1 cylinder engine, it can recharge the batteries.

/// If memory serves, the first Chevy, EV-1?, boasted 100 mi range between chargeups. And it had A/C, stereo, the whole nine yards. Turned out it got, in real-world terms, about 40-60 miles between charges. Batteries have to be changed out about every three years, four perhaps, and that's hugely expensive.///

I tend to agree with you, Les, regarding the folks dreaming up these vehicles. Before we had Luke, I wouldn't have given it much thought, but with a kid, and all the stuff we carry to support him, there's no way a 2 seater will work for us.

/// Of course not! I fully understand about kids. The big factor in battery car range is weight. There are lots of single-seaters out there, but I rarely-to-never go anywhere w/o my wife along. Therefore, despite the hype, they remain best at single-person commuting. Stand on a street corner and count the cars going by with one person in them. I feel, if a critical mass of 1 & 2 seaters could be injected onto the highways, battery cars would succeed. But they'd have to be cheap, initially, or subsidized. Once acceptance was won (probably though expensive retributive lawsuits for mashing one) they'd fulfill their real purpose: leaving the Detroit Plastic parked more often.///

However, when you are designing your vehicle to drive on sidewalks, remember that sidewalks are not meant for motorized vehicles. In most states, there are laws against driving on sidewalks, even bikes. Also, make sure that if you do continue to design for sidewalks, a vast majority of them are not well leveled and there are many vertical transitions between one segment and another. I never noticed it before too much, but pushing a stroller will show you how bad it can get.

/// I have more miles on my rider lawnmower (unsprung) on sidewalks than I do cutting grass. It's fun to putt along in the sunshine. Like riding a motorcycle, again. (I had six at various times). Anyway, you'd better believe I'm aware of uneven sidewalks! As for laws, you're right: I've been glared at a few times by the local cops, but otherwise unhassled. They could, though. Every time I meet a pedestrian I pull off into the parking greenstrip, idle down, or even shut the engine off. I've been thanked for my courtesy a couple of times.///



I'll address your points as best I can, but I need to supply a few details. Both my wife and I are past 60 with health issues. I tried biking to work (7mi) and was nearly killed a couple of times, but the thing that scared me into quitting was one night coming home (2nd shifter) I hit a pothole and broke the generator brackets. Pitch dark, but after awhile I could feel my way along. Then came this "GRRRR!!" and the scratching of BIG claws on the street. I think I got away because he couldn't see much, either. Big dog. So much for biking for us.

Now, go up into your post and I'll mark my answers /// so you can pick them out easily.

And NO, I do NOT have anger issues with people who merely have a different take from mine.

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Re the old guy with the attitude: I believe that ingrained notion goes back as far as Cain. As for close calls, I've ridden motorcycles a good deal. One needs almost a negative 'mean time between reflex and observation' to stay whole. i.e. see about 10 seconds into the future. For sure, one cannot become unconscious of his surroundings.

Other posts have alluded to something I want to emphasize: the 'Longer tailpipe' effect. I fail utterly to grasp how anyone cannot understand that there is no free lunch where energy is concerned. Every device has a built-in loss factor. To charge a battery array, or pump up an air tank just moves the site of energy expenditure to a different location. Yes, there's probably savings in quantity production at a single location, but it's likely negligible. That's why I feel the greatest savings from any battery car I build will be the result of keeping my minivan in the driveway.

About the batterys becoming more affordable: I'd be wary that manufacturers didn't consider customers a captive market and charge MORE. It's happened before.

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I agree with most of that, especially the forward-thinking in City Hall. I don't agree with an $8,000 golf cart, no matter how well decked out. That is simply too much money to induce buyers to switch to an obviously-limited vehicle. And I have reservations that the savings in gasoline will ever pay for the vehicle, its special class of insurance, batteries over time, etc.

Only two forces will make it happen, I fear: market forces (cost of gas) or subsidies from the gov't. (Another form of tax). Neither seem palatable to me.

I think, were the laws not so stringent, tinkerers could come up with pretty good solutions over time. Look at the genius applied to the model RR hobby to solve problems.

Thanks for posting that article, BTW.


I would happily take a bus or what's called the 'Metrolink' around here--except our bus system is a joke, +/- 1/2hr scheduling, filthy interiors while in that perverted Metrolink, the passengers ride facing backwards, which tends to make me carsick. Also, it doesn't actually GO anywhere. Forest Park, a college, some few other deathlessly important points that I've forgotten. And, just last week, gangs of kids were roaming the platforms at two locations, beating up waiting passengers.

I think they'll start drilling soon. I don't think the majority of people will stand for being coerced into inadequate to nonexistent mass transit or 'golf carts'. Then again, in the gas crisis in the '70s, I figured we'd soon own Saudi Arabia. But I was wrong.

Anyway, to bring my part in this full circle, I have the tools and knowledge to build my own, if necessary. And at my age, there are few places I really HAVE to go. /DesktopModules/NTForums/themes/mls/emoticons/tongue.gif

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Posted By markoles on 08/13/2008 10:17 AM

I've noticed there isn't much noise about Ethanol these days. Two to three years ago, there seemed to be a lot of talk about that as a fuel source.

Speculating is fun!! I saved you guys a couple gallons this morning, and I noticed that gas prices are dropping toward $3.50. The cynic in me wonders what they will be on November 5.

Ung? /DesktopModules/NTForums/themes/mls/emoticons/w00t.gif About a month ago there were riots in Mexico because the price of cornmeal went from pennies to a week's pay for one tortilla. 3rd world areas are getting hungrier because the price of staples has gone up. In this country, food prices are climbing due to farmers switching to corn to make ethanol.

I paid $3.47/gal yesterday. I saved YOU guys a bunch: I didn't go anywhere. /DesktopModules/NTForums/themes/mls/emoticons/tongue.gif Most days I don't even--well, I went to start my S10 the other morning and the battery was flat from sitting. (I hope, am investigating). /DesktopModules/NTForums/themes/mls/emoticons/crazy.gif My wife is the 'run-to-the-store-for-this-little-item' type. Puts on about 25mi/wk. And we garage sale on Saturdays for entertainment, that's about it. The S10 is a '94 model, bought new, with 75K on the clock, fully a third of which the kids put on borrowing it to haul their junk around until I told 'em to fill the tank after each use. :mad: Then they each got their own p/u's.

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Posted By astrayelmgod on 08/13/2008 11:36 PM

Les said:
" fail utterly to grasp how anyone cannot understand that there is no free lunch where energy is concerned. Every device has a built-in loss factor. To charge a battery array, or pump up an air tank just moves the site of energy expenditure to a different location. Yes, there's probably savings in quantity production at a single location, but it's likely negligible. "

Not true, Les. Gasoline powered vehicles average about 10% efficiency. A lot more on the freeways, zero at traffic lights, overall 10%. An ordinary coal fired or nuclear power plant runs at about 35-40% efficiency, regular natural gas plants run at 40% to 48%, and combined cycle plants (natural gas powered, plus a Heat Recovery Steam Turbine in the exhaust) run at 60%.

We are currently using 30% of our corn crop to make 8% of our fuel. The government mandate is for ethanol to make up 20% of our fuel by a year that eludes me right now. So, we will need 75% of our corn crop. Trouble is, there wasn't that much excess corn in the first place. And there isn't enough arable but unused land in the US to make up the difference. Plus, corn is a remarkably low efficiency source of ethanol. Ethanol from agricultural waste makes a lot of sense. Ethanol from corn makes zero sense. So why are we going **** for leather down the corn path? Three words: Archer. Daniels. Midlands. ADM went to Washington, and spread a little money around (a little by ADM standards), and pooff, corn ethanol mandate.
I could go on (and on) but I've probably already lost most people, so I won't.

You haven't lost me, for one. I tend to agree with your overall perspective--since it is congenial with mine, for two--but you've made a serious error in your rebuttal of my statement: I was specifically speaking of the costs of energy at least once removed from the device expending the energy, i.e, the $2 recharge of a battery array. You went directly to the efficiency of gasoline engines. I don't know what the efficiency of modern-day engines are. I suspect that the number is not fixed, depending upon who's arguing what point. I know this: I can afford to run my Pontiac Montana with its excellent a/c and other features as far as I NEED to at a price I am willing to pay.

My point has always been that there's a way around high gasoline costs, and that's first, buy less gas (stay home more) and second, with a home-brewed rig running a pair of batteries and a one-lunger engine for recharge or alternate motive power when necessary. And I have both the skills and the tools to construct one of these things. It's the hassle with City Hall that I don't care to deal with. Do I think everyone will like a two-placer sidewalk-runner with a range of ten miles or under? Not even. Given a sharp enough crisis, I think both the above problems will solve themselves.

I'm too old to look for easy fixes. Life's full of tradeoffs, and then there's the vast array of people who await someone else to do their thinking.

Please, if you're going to tell me I'm wrong, tell me why in the terms I've posited. And no, I'm not mad, see/DesktopModules/NTForums/themes/mls/emoticons/laugh.gif

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That reminds me--this is a RR forum--of the time I clued MOPAC RR into where five of their gondolas were. I'd been driving past this overgrown siding with these five gons rusting into the dirt for more than five years, so one day I pulled over and copied the car numbers down. When I got to work I wrote a letter (this was quite a long time ago) with the cars listed and wondered what the story was. I got a grateful reply: they'd lost track of where these things were! /DesktopModules/NTForums/themes/mls/emoticons/doze.gif

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