« BackNews: Can Pressurised Air Power Cars?

Can Pressurised Air Power Cars?


One of the biggest use cases for pressurised tanks and the relief valve systems that are in place to avoid dangerous levels of pressure is fuels, often taking the form of fossil fuels such as petrol, diesel or natural gas.

However, as people are increasingly keen to find alternative ways to fill up the fuel tank, one somewhat unique option for powering cars is to dispense with the fuel entirely and instead fill a tank completely with compressed air.

Given that most fuels work via the use of rapidly expanding gases that are forced through a mechanism that converts that force into mechanical energy, by pushing against a set of pistons and turning a crankshaft, much like a standard internal combustion engine but without the combustion.

This force can be used on its own or combined with other forms of fuel to heat the air or power an air compressor to increase the forces and thus increase the speed which provides reduced emissions compared to a conventional engine.

The fuel itself comes from the air around the car, so someone can park their car, plug in an air compressor and have a full air tank in around two hours for a remarkably low price.

However, whilst an air car theoretically emits zero emissions at the exhaust, an air-powered car in practice will likely require some type of power to run an air compressor to allow the car to exceed 35 miles per hour, and electric air compressors are only as green as the electricity used to power them.

As well as this, range may be an issue, with early air car prototypes only able to travel around 120 miles on a tank of air before refuelling, although as with electric battery technology, this could rapidly increase as the technology improves.

Finally, there were initial concerns about how the compressed air would respond to impact damage, but the use of protective valves and materials designed to crack rather than shatter entirely ensures that the compressed air would be harmlessly released.