Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

02 Pursuit motorcycle runs on compressed air

By

November 1, 2011

Benstead worked with project partners including Engineair and Yamaha Australia as well as ...

Benstead worked with project partners including Engineair and Yamaha Australia as well as Simon Curlis and Automotive designer Marcus Hotblack at RMIT to create the 02 Pursuit

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A vehicle that runs on air. It sounds like a fantastic idea, but energy is still needed to compress the air and the losses that go hand-in-hand with converting energy still have to be taken into account, just as in fossil fuel-based propulsion systems. Pros and cons aside, we still haven't seen air powered transport make an impact in the race to find economic, environmentally-friendly ways to get from A to B. Industrial Design student Dean Benstead thinks that compressed air does have a role to play in the future transport mix, and he's designed a working air-powered motorcycle prototype with a view to exploring the viability of the platform.

Benstead's "02 Pursuit" motorcycle is based on the geometry of a current-spec 250 cc motocross bike and uses running gear from a WR250F and Engineair's DiPietro air engine as its power plant. In its current form it can hit speeds in excess of 62 mph (100 km/h) and, given that the first prototype was developed with a focus on design rather than engineering, Benstead believes that performance can be improved with further development.

"The concept evolved from research to sketches to computer modeling before the chassis and bodywork was built and fabrication at local manufacturer, Rinlatech Engineering, began," says Benstead.

"I wanted to explore the viability of compressed air as an alternative fuel, and my childhood experiences riding dirt bikes led me to design the motocross bike based around the Engineair engine."

Benstead worked with project partners including Engineair and Yamaha Australia as well as ...

Benstead also sees the possibility of a marketable model based on the prototype emerging down the track.

"The next prototype would involve a total re-style, different material choices over the current steel tube chassis, such as aluminum or even a futuristic printed titanium, reducing the weight comparable to a heavy-duty mountain bike."

Dean Benstead's air-powered 02 Pursuit motorcycle

The 02 Pursuit will be revealed in a working demo at the Sydney Motorcycle & Scooter Show in Australia on Friday November 25.

About the Author
Noel McKeegan After a misspent youth at law school, Noel began to dabble in tech research, writing and things with wheels that go fast. This bus dropped him at the door of a freshly sprouted Gizmag.com in 2002. He has been Gizmag's Editor-in-Chief since 2007.   All articles by Noel McKeegan
36 Comments

what is the range of the bike in one tank full of compressed air ?

farzin.irani
2nd November, 2011 @ 01:27 am PDT

Already far better than any electric vehicle; its energy storage device wont loose capability an have to be replaced every few years, it fills faster as well.

Slowburn
2nd November, 2011 @ 04:58 am PDT

Yet another compressed air engine. This is about the fourth one I've seen announced in as many years. None of them have come to market for a simple reason. They won't work.

Compress air, what happens? The container gets hot. That heat radiates away. That is the energy you just put into compressing the air bleeding away. You haven't stored it.

Don't believe me, get one of those compressed air cans for cleaning your keyboard. Use it for more than a few seconds and that can gets very cold, and the pressure drops.

In order to use compressed air you need to add heat back. So add fins to the tank, but you still have a few problems. You need a very high ambient temperature, so forget using this in winter. If it's at all humid you'll get ice build up on the fins. Ice is a pretty good insulator. Either way, not enough heat input.

All that cold air causes other problems. If there is any moisture in the stored air it will ice up your lines. It will also super cool your pistons/cylinders shrinking any gap, potentially causing a siezure.

Insulate the tank you say. Then the pressure builds up very quickly and any practical size of tank actually has very little capacity.

It's just not a practical invention.

Ken Waldron
2nd November, 2011 @ 06:30 am PDT

re; Ken Waldron

The cooling of the tank happen in accordance to the ratio of the amount of gas being vented to the volume of the tank.

Those compressed air cans for cleaning your keyboard, are not filled with air but a low pressure compressed to liquid gas, usually used a refrigerant. Once the temperature of the liquid has dropped to below its boiling point it wont produce "Steam" until it is warmed.

I have seen pneumatic tool fed CO2 from a compressed to liquid tank without any ill affect. The problem pneumatic powered vehicles have getting to the market is not with the technology; it is with the opinionated fools who won't give them a chance.

Slowburn
2nd November, 2011 @ 08:56 am PDT

@ ken...you need to do some reading and inventing, and less naysaying. First off, those compressed air keyboard cleaners ARE NOT compressed air. (how can you not know this?) Air motors ARE very practical... have you seen any workshop on the planet that doesnt have an air compresser powering every type of tool imaginable? I've never seen a body shop close its doors because of cold weather. Never seen air lines ice up either. frictionless bearings? all use air. Storage tanks are lighter and hold more pressure than ever. How often do good quality air tools sieze? pretty much never if maintained. All good PRACTICAL pieces to the puzzle.

Lance Crain
2nd November, 2011 @ 09:38 am PDT

Ken,

the Flat Earth Society is looking for a new president - you'd be perfect.

Seriously - you COULD NOT be more wrong about this.

Keith Reeder
2nd November, 2011 @ 10:35 am PDT

Right you are, Lance. Air has been the tool-powering medium of choice for years because there are devices that address those various problems that have popped up, such as air driers and filters. The biggest problems for applying air to mobile/vehicular use have been, it seems to me, efficiency and weight, along with capacity. The more research into solving these problems, the closer we get to an ideal state. Innovation should always be encouraged. New and strong lightweight materials are being developed every day and new approachs to motor design and engineering - such as this di Pietro - continue to narrow the gap between "it doesn't work" and "amazing how well it works."

Neil Larkins
2nd November, 2011 @ 10:59 am PDT

Workshop compressors are not comparable, unless you plan on adding an electric compressor to the bike and a long extension cord. The tanks on a compressor act like a capacitor to allow the compressor to not have to keep running and smooth out the psi variances due to cycling. They don't fully cycle from empty to full and back to empty. And there are water traps on those things, because the air DOES cool and the water condenses causing all sorts of nasty issues. They also don't have the heat loss issue since they're at equilibrium with the compressor providing more energy as needed. Run the tank down without the compressor running and you'll find it gets cold. You'll also find there's not anywhere near enough air in there to run any kind of engine for long. Very low comparative PSI to what is proposed for these engines.

Yes, those cans don't have compressed air, they have a compressed gas, same difference. They use those gases since they liquify at a higher temperature. That state change results in a dramatic hike in density and thus more is able to be stored in a can.

Air motors work great when driven by a compressor since you have an equilibrium state and thus little cooling, and they run at much lower PSI.

This a straight physics issue. Look up laws of thermodynamics, Boyle's law, etc. If you want that compressed gas to do work for you for any prolonged period of time you'll need a darned good heat exchanger and source of heat.

I'm not a naysayer. I actually thought of this solution as a way to keep wind turbines more efficient by compressing air when overloaded to keep the blade speed within safe parameters, and use the compressed air to keep them up to speed when wind is low. Put the storage under the Wind Turbine. But I realized it wouldn't work due to the reasons I cited. Put the tank in a large body of water and it might work, but you'll need to use some energy to keep the water flowing over the heat exchanger.

Inventors who ignore the laws of physics are destined to be foiled by them.

Ken Waldron
2nd November, 2011 @ 11:28 am PDT

According to VitalMX.com, he can ride around for 3 hours at 60kph on a tank of air. That's a little over 37mph, a figure which is more familiar to me. Since this is a motocross bike (I think it is...I don't know that much about bikes), high speed is not the aim, though power would be and it's likely quite powerful. Otherwise, why even build the thing if it can't be competitive? Nevertheless, that's 111 miles in distance traveled. I would guess that when that bike was gas-powered it didn't have much more range than that on a single tank of fuel. By a photo I saw on VitalMX.com, tanks of air are kept on hand and the setup looks like they can be easily and quickly swapped. Now, move those figures around a little and assume the bike is geared to go twice as fast, say 75mph. Can it then be assumed it will be able to travel only half the distance on that one tankful of air? Probably not because of increased wind resistance, but if so, that's still a respectable 55 or so miles on a single tank. Even if range is reduced to 50 miles, just add one more tank onboard and bingo! 100 miles on a single filling. Not bad in my estimation.

Neil Larkins
2nd November, 2011 @ 12:00 pm PDT

The news here isn't "air vehicle."

It's the engine design. The DiPietro rotary-air is in it's 5th or 6th generation.

It has been well demonstrated. It works. Power to weight ratio has increased with each development iteration.

They are testing it now in a food market in Melbourne ... powering carts and forklifts & getting the exhaust fumes out of the building.

If it pencils out in that environment - if they can prove endurance, performance and maintenance - it is suddenly an exciting product for development or licensing or whatever.

Albert Sudonim
2nd November, 2011 @ 12:56 pm PDT

Quote "but energy is still needed to compress the air" so as an enviromental focused offering it fails completely. Compressors run on Elecricity from a coal fired power station or a petrol/diesel engine. Nothing more than a curious novelty. At least electric vehicles "can be" charged by the sun. Solar compressor anyone?

Terry Penrose
2nd November, 2011 @ 05:15 pm PDT

@Ken Waldron;

After reading the above article and all of the comments, you still sound like a nay-sayer to me. If everyone always listened to that type of people then we would all still be living in caves.

Who said that any invention HAS TO BE PRACTICAL?

JMOdom
2nd November, 2011 @ 05:20 pm PDT

I agree with the majority thinking that Ken has overstated adiabatic problems. Yes one generates heat when compressing air (losing energy), but as with all energy storage systems, there are losses. But after filling, tank returns to ambient temperature, and engine then cools somewhat when running... a bit like an internal combustion engine generates heat when running. But obviously these engines work running fork-lift trucks around the Melbourne city markets... so ice is unlikely to be a problem in temperate climates.

The tiny number of moving parts is what is amazing. Compressed air is a beautiful energy-storage medium in that regard.

As others have noted, only real issue is range... which is a function of tank pressure. And if swappable tanks, or ability to strap second onto rear rack, then magic! Just as people recharge electric battery packs at work (for the commute home), people could have small/slow compressor at work to recharge tank. Indeed, even leaving tank in-situ, one could have a small 110-240v compressor in under six-inches square (150mm square) which you carry on bike and plug-in to mains power at any destination, or cafe/truckstop en-route to extend range.

But pity the designer was not a commute cyclist in his youth, rather than dirt-bike enthusiast - as then he might have started with a mountain bike (off-road bicycling) frame and parts, rather than motorcross frame and componentry. MTB frame, suspension etc are about 50% of the weight of motorcross... Other benefit is that if you construct as an 'ancillary' motor (ie if you leave pedals in place), you can more easily construct something that is legal in most jurisdictions to use on the road.

But good Aussie ingenuity!

Graeme, Sydney, Australia

Graeme Harrison
2nd November, 2011 @ 05:50 pm PDT

This is great news if true. I was hoping air would make it back, this with batteries could be a mean cheap hybrid

Leonard Foster Jr
2nd November, 2011 @ 06:13 pm PDT

re; Ken Waldron

Seriously, did you just state that boiling a liquid is the thermodynamic equivalent of expanding a gas?

Not even close.

Slowburn
2nd November, 2011 @ 06:34 pm PDT

I'd be interested in seeing somebody do a gas/compressed air hybrid. Compare it then to the gas/electric hybrid vehicle. The compressed air system would probably be hundreds of pounds lighter than the battery electric system. Carbon fiber air tanks compared to a multiple hundreds pound battery. Non degrading tanks compared to constantly weakening batteries.

Fred W Ross
3rd November, 2011 @ 01:04 am PDT

Nice look,

Smart challenge!

Here is a refuelling station for compressed air cars and relevant engines!

http://sti.epfl.ch/page-71384-en.html

http://airpurdesvosges-leblog.blogspot.com/2011/10/un-projet-dusines-specifiques-aux-iles.html

Air Pur des Vosges
3rd November, 2011 @ 06:40 am PDT

This will be my last post on this topic. To the gentlemen who called me a naysayer, thank you. I've come to realize you could not have paid me a higher compliment.

I've never been one to accept the printed page without some kind of critical analysis.

I've seen concepts come and go on this and other sites, yet never see the light of day in real production. The causes are many, including funding, design challenges, patent infringement, or it won't work (either cost effectively, or it just plain doesn't work).

When I see the same concept reported from many different places over many years, and no real large-scale production happens I start to look at the last. So, your criticism caused me to do two things: Investigate my own knowledge, investigate the state of this industry.

For the first I knew that my knowledge was incomplete, and I have educated myself as to where my errors were. I now know my discussions of heat exchange issues were overstated, as heat loss is a lesser aspect at high pressures. Boyle's Law is not effective at high pressures. It is however still an issue as the reference I used states both in filling and emptying the tank.

The dual loss of energy, electrical to compressed air to kinetic also significantly reduces the efficiency, so forget about clean air, unless you are using solar or wind as your source

I also now know that there is a limited amount of energy available in any practical storage tank, about 50 Wh per litre at 4500 psi. If you're planning on filling such a tank at home you're in for a very long wait, and going to see a very low energy transfer efficiency. Only commercial compressors can achieve this with any sort of efficiency and speed, and you'll still lose a significant portion of the input energy. By comparison a Lithium Ion Battery has 5 times the energy density, and even an old fashioned Lead Acid Battery beats air pressure. I of course am assuming that my references are correct, which by the way I will be confirming. I am after all a skeptic.

As for the industry, there are about eight companies mentioned in my reference. Read the summary of each. One Chairman got charged with fraud. Tata said limited range and LOW ENGINE TEMPERATURES were causing problems. This is a company in India, not exactly know for low air temperatures. One company uses fuel to heat the air.

I feel justified in my skepticism as all the issues I raised are real, and proud that I don't believe anything just because it is in print. As I said those who are ignorant of the laws of physics are doomed to be foiled by them. As for the flat earth society, they don't take skeptics, they take people who will believe anything.

Gentlemen, bring a critical eye to what you read. And don't misinterpret what someone says to criticize them. Thank you for making me question myself, I feel better having been vindicated in my skepticism.

I do believe this technology can be useful in some situations. It's great in my Air Hog model plane, although I'd like a lot more flight time. I think I'll install an electric motor and batteries.

Ken Waldron
3rd November, 2011 @ 07:11 am PDT

Oops, sorry, forgot the reference:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compressed_air_car

This is my last last post. :)

Ken Waldron
3rd November, 2011 @ 07:17 am PDT

re; Terry Penrose

You can compress air using solar, and the air tank is vastly more environmentally benign than batteries.

............................................................................................................................

re; Leonard Foster Jr

the compressed air tank is the "battery".

Slowburn
3rd November, 2011 @ 09:48 am PDT

Ken!!! Don't go so soon. I don't blame you though. The problem when arguing with a fool is that sometimes bystanders might not be able to tell the difference.

Anyway, there is a simple way of looking at this. A gas powered vehicle heats up COLD air using fuel to expand the air to make work. The air engine does the opposite. It heats up air by compressing it for storage, therefore causing the pressure to go up and lose energy via heat loss. It then is released from a high compressed state (storage tank) to a low, cooler state (motor) which in turn also loses energy.

So when you want the air to compress, it heats up and wants to expand instead, and when you want it to do some work, it cools down, shrinks and loses pressure. Atoms work that way. Think of steam instead.

Michele Doiron
3rd November, 2011 @ 06:33 pm PDT

Ken can you link to the Vital mx quote i cant find it. I to am convincing non believers.

Anthony Collett
4th November, 2011 @ 10:24 am PDT

The problem is that people see the heating and cooling of the gas as a problem rather an opportunity. Using a Sterling Cycle engine you can harvest mechanical energy from the generated heat differential.

Slowburn
4th November, 2011 @ 07:29 pm PDT

I am with Ken, there is a reason this fails every time it is tried. The people doing it don't have an engineering background, if you were to add heat to the compressed air then you might get somewhere otherwise the energy used to compress the air will make this a lot like making hydrogen from water. This is not to say there are not some applications where it might make sense but it would not be energy efficient or energy dense. Go ahead make my day, prove me wrong, I will be the first to admit I don't know everything but history says this will be another lesson in what not to do.

katgod
5th November, 2011 @ 07:17 pm PDT

re; katgod

Steel and aluminum air tank are too heavy to make the idea practical except in special circumstances. But with carbon fiber, and the possibility of carbon nano-tube tanks make pneumatic propulsion more practical than electric vehicles, especially if the heat is harvested during compression and the cold during expansion.

Just as an aside I prefer the injuries of an exploding air tank to those of a flaming gas tank.

Slowburn
6th November, 2011 @ 06:22 am PST

Here is a link to the DiPietro Air motor site:

http://www.engineair.com.au/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2&Itemid=2

It sounds spectactular - and a nice animation on there too:

Outstanding efficiency up to 94.5%, Constant high torque, Low parts count, Low number of moving parts, Virtually no friction' Smooth speed control characteristics, Compact and light, No vibration, Only 1 PSI of pressure is needed to overcome the friction.

Marke
8th November, 2011 @ 07:10 am PST

Want it to work .....Add a second sprocket that can go faster than the actual sprocket and pump air back into pressueized tank....Have fun.

Luv2NoLimit
8th November, 2011 @ 02:28 pm PST

Wikipedia: A 2005 study demonstrated that cars running on lithium-ion batteries out-perform both compressed air and fuel cell vehicles more than threefold at the same speeds.[10] MDI claimed in 2007 that an air car will be able to travel 140 km in urban driving, and have a range of 80 km with a top speed of 110 km/h (68 mph) on highways,[11] when operating on compressed air alone, but in as late as mid 2011, MDI has still not produced any proof to that effect.

The Flying Crowbar
10th November, 2011 @ 06:57 am PST

The problem with compressed air vehicles has been the low energy density of compressed air, which leads to very short range.

The engines have a high horsepower/kg ratio, but the compressed air and compressed air tank have a very low ratio of kilowatt-hours to kilograms or liters.

In simpler terms, a compressed air bike may be able to go very fast, but it will be for a very short distance.

MDI (mdi.lu) has been fighting this problem since the late 1990's. They have announced almost every year since 1999 that production of a compressed air vehicle would start "next year", but they have never even gotten to the point of having a prototype that they are willing to let automotive journalists use to do independent tests.

Charlie Allen
11th November, 2011 @ 08:25 pm PST

re; The Flying Crowbar

That is with new batteries. The air tank won't have to be replaced every few years to maintain the same level of performance.

Slowburn
12th November, 2011 @ 09:51 am PST

HEY nice concept. a carbon fibre tank is STRONG and light and may be expensive but is capable of taking a bullet and would withstand some damage. Carbon fibre helmet and shin pads please.

Neiall Mullery
15th November, 2011 @ 01:55 pm PST

@Charlie Allen - November 11, 2011 @ 08:25 pm PST

"In simpler terms, a compressed air bike may be able to go very fast, but it will be for a very short distance."

What's the matter, Charlie?

... since 92% of car drivers run a a maxi range 44 km (28 miles) a day in most countries.

"MDI (mdi.lu) has been fighting this problem since the late 1990's."

Right! And he proved the concept was good.

Just a lack of money,

... when 900 Millions of euros were given by Sarkozy administration to Bolloré staff and mates for the poisoned Lithium batteries.

I guess you know this, Charlie!

Would be better to support these courageous pionneers,

Angelo Di Pietro , Guy Nègre and Gilles Saint-Hilaire.

Amazing gentlemen!

Aren't they?

http://airpurdesvosges-leblog.blogspot.com/2011/11/canadiens-et-tous-nos-amis-lecteurs.html

Les Triplettes de Bonneville - Salon Moto Legende - Paris 2011

http://airpurdesvosges-leblog.blogspot.com/2011/11/his-real-driving.html

Air Pur des Vosges
19th November, 2011 @ 04:14 am PST

Shop air tools use high powered compressors to store energy to supply very low power hand tools. Certain grinders do well as high RPM and air motors are useful in tools that develop almost no torque at all.

So far no air powered vehicle has proven to deliver any real distance ability at all. The one air car that was produced was a disaster than ran out of air in just a handful of miles. Batteries are currently far superior to are motors for mobility. It is a shame as air motors are not heavy or bulky. A low speed air car with continuous air compression from a small petrol motor might work in areas with heavy, urban traffic as so much time is spent at idle and a crawl speeds that a small compressor might keep the air bottles full. But in my climate the need for year round air conditioning trashes most new ideas and in other areas a need for serious heating inside a vehicle has the same effect making many new ideas sort of worthless. AC in a car may take more energy than pushing the car does.

Jim Sadler
22nd November, 2011 @ 10:18 am PST

"So far no air powered vehicle has proven to deliver any real distance ability at all. The one air car that was produced was a disaster than ran out of air in just a handful of miles"

My brother-in-law first saw an air powered car in the late 50s and I've been hearing about it ever since. He put it into his giant "Great Conspiracy" folder along with the 100 MPG carburetor and the engine that can run on water.

Puhleeeze!

Tom Phoghat Sobieski
30th November, 2011 @ 04:31 am PST

"I've never been one to accept the printed page without some kind of critical analysis."

Thank the Universe. I thought I was all alone here.

Tom Phoghat Sobieski
30th November, 2011 @ 04:36 am PST

Hello guys,

first of all, i really like the idea of air powered car/bike. I've even made some designs based on that tehnology but when i was looking for some data about air engines, energy density etc I've found that its rubish. It just cant work, it cant work on this planet and probably not even anywhere else. Maybe some other universe with different laws of physics.

That company which claims they have engine with 95% efficiency ... they dont realize that it would have to have 1000 % efficiency to work ( perpetum mobile here we go ). Compressed air has energy density of the potato, maybe even lower (gassoline has around 100 times better). Ye you can say that gasoline engine has poor efficiency (18 to 35%) still superior to compressed air propulsion not to mention there are diesel engines with 50% efficiency .

Im not naysayer even had long discusion with teacher from automotive department. He just laughed when i asked him about compresed air cars.

If you like the idea of non gassoilne/disel vehicle, go watch "who killed electric car" movie, its american so its kinda stupid, but if you dont take it too serius you will find out why we still use 100 years old technology in cars.

The only hope is graphene bateries ( or some other technology ). Electric motors are simple easy to use and manage with high efficiency and maybe few years later we will have electric motors with carbon nanotube / graphene windings ( just my idea, dont take it serious) which will have high power/weight ratio.

PS: sorry for bad english, hope you can understand the meaning :D

PPS: NO, the air powered vehicles cant work!

František Okáník
18th February, 2012 @ 10:41 am PST
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