KU:RIN sets speed record for compressed air cars
Toyota Industries Corporation recently set a speed record for compressed air cars, by sending its KU:RIN up to 129.2 km/h (80.3 mph)
Although battery-powered cars may no longer be considered quirky and weird, automobiles propelled by compressed air are still perhaps thoughts of as a little ... fringy. The MDI Air Car looked promising, although development of the vehicle seems to have been at least temporarily suspended. Toyota Industries Corporation, however, recently brought some attention to the technology. On September 9th, its one-off KU:RIN set a new speed record for compressed air cars, at 129.2 km/h (80.3 mph).
The KU:RIN was designed and built by the Toyota group company before setting the record at the Japan Automobile Research Institute (JARI) test facility in Shirosato, Japan.
Toyota Industries Corporation is reportedly the world's largest supplier of automotive air conditioner compressors, and the designers used that technology in their little dragster - they essentially reversed one of their compressors, so instead of using mechanical energy to compress air, it generated mechanical energy through the expansion of compressed air.
While it may have gone fast, however, KU:RIN's range is only 3.2 kilometers (2 miles) - definitely not a car that we'll likely be seeing in showrooms any time soon. It may, however, be showing up in the Guinness Book of Records, as its recent feat has been submitted for inclusion.
"Ku" and "rin," incidentally, are Japanese for "air" and "wheel."
Source: Toyota Industries Corporation (Japanese)
About the Author
An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.
All articles by Ben Coxworth
The human powered speed record is 81 mph. A compressed air powered vehicle should be able to easily beat that; this same motor could do it if they fixed the obvious drag sources (or if they ran a trial at a higher altitude).
The power needed to compress air is enormous, so this is not a green vehicle by any stretch of the imagination. It is also not novel. Any air powered tool works the same way. That noise after the mechanic loosens the lugs on your wheel is a 20kw electric motor compressing air for the next customer\'s car.
I am really surprised how both good and bad this design is. It looks very impressively aerodynamic and light weight. The bad: come-on, three little tanks? I bet 90% of the back yard mechanics could beat this. Take one big cylinder fill it to the max weld to a kiddy wagon add saddle, goggles, leather jacket, scarf, and just quick release the pressure out a nozzle. I bet that would beat 80 mph. Faster? Use a super charger or a big diesel turbo as a motor to drive the wheels. More range? Add a pressure reducing tank configured as a heat exchanger to warm the pressurized gas allowing expansion and an increase of pressure.
And the other commenter is right this technology is not new. They had air powered locomotives in mines a hundred years ago and they were far more advanced than this design, heat exchangers the works. Those were great locomotives because they brought in fresh air into the mines as they operated.
There\'s a device that can compress huge amounts of air using no energy and has no moving parts. It\'s a trompe. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trompe Even better is the air from a trompe is cool and dry instead of the hot and wet air from mechanical compressors.
Air pressure could still be \"green\". It is a mater of having efficient compression initially and there is technology that can do that. There is compression by sonic waves and other cool stuff. You could even do it directly at a powerplant like a nuclear plant exchanging steam pressure with air pressure skipping the electrical steps would be very efficient and technically easy. The problem is just that batteries are advancing so fast that any big effort for air pressure would just loose out. Flywheel stuff is still possible. If they ever find a cheep way to make long woven carbon nanotube fibers in an epoxy flywheel in a vacuum and magnetically suspended. That could store the energy necessary for an automobile. That is a lot of tech, but doable. And there are advantages to that approach. The main feature for success is costeffectiveness vs the coming wave of electrics.
I\'m a little late on this article. Nevertheless, just Google \"pneumatic locomotive\" or air car or whatever and you\'ll see that this is indeed an old idea done better. Terry Miller, for one. But Toyota, being Toyota, gets the publicity. Do they intend to anything with this, other than to show that they could do it? Being a company that makes compressors, etc. it seems they could have done a lot more. If nothing else, maybe it\'ll stir up some new interest and others will step forward to show them up.
Old technology or not, it is educational and thought provoking. Almost anyone can get their hands onto a car a/c compressor and some air tanks for experimenting. Now, if you increase the size of everything, could it get me to work and back (30km) ?
B-Rad in Burnaby
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