Comments: Why can't innovation and research be emphasized on something like this?

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This smells like a crock to me.

Compressed air isn't a fuel, any more than batteries are a fuel. They are a storage mechanism. How does the air get compressed? Fossil fuel powered electrical compressors, certainly.

What is the secret sauce that allows one to burn gas, compress air, and then get 200 mph, when just burning gas gets only 25 mph?

I don't believe there is any.

Posted by TJIC at May 20, 2007 10:12 AM

Hube, this sounds like an interesting approach for personal, local transportation. The plug-in electrical vehicle also comes to mind because it is similar, similar in the sense that both depend ultimately on electricity generation. Thus the cost per mile in emissions and dollars due to the generation of the electricity to run either vehicle must be taken into account when comparison is made to the internal combustion engine, also depending on what fuel is uses as well. So there is complexity here that is often glibly overlooked due to the lack of an holistic analysis. I have yet to run across an authoritative article written at this level that compares the alternatives for personal transportation.

Posted by Perry at May 20, 2007 12:18 PM

Thanks for the interesting story (and the kind words).

Of course compressed air is a medium for storing energy rather than an energy source. I can't judge the engineering of the concept, except to note that air compressors are cheap and common. Keep us posted.

Posted by tommywonk at May 20, 2007 09:35 PM

"What is the secret sauce that allows one to burn gas, compress air, and then get 200 mph, when just burning gas gets only 25 mph?"

It is rather simple, cars generally use piston engines running on the Otto cycle. We use these designs largely because cars start and stop a lot (in an industrial sense) so we need an engine which supplies both power and torque over a wide RPM range. Piston engines also throttle fairly well. They're also light weight and gasoline makes for a good chemical battery to store energy and give good range to the vehicle. You'll note that peak energy efficiency doesn't really factor into this anywhere.

In industrial settings, fossil fuels would probably be burned to heat water to steam which is then run through a steam turbine to produce electrical power. This equipment can be quite heavy, doesn't throttle well, and doesn't generate good power over a wide RPM band. Fortunately it doesn't need to because power levels don't generally vary widely from moment to moment over the entire grid. It is also quite a bit cleaner because you can burn the fuel at temperatures and pressures which are optimal for clean and efficient combustion. This is a very efficient system but it wouldn't make for a good car.

Posted by Jeff the Baptist at May 21, 2007 01:53 PM