Energy & Sustainability
Air-powered scooter

Air-powered scooter leaves city centres cleaner via Gizmodo.

An inventor has created what he claims is the world’s first motorcycle powered by fresh air.

Jem Stansfield says his converted Puch moped produces cleaner air than found in many town and city centres and so can actually reduce pollution.

“It actually fires out cleaner air,” said 37-year-old Stansfield, who used to be a sheep herder.

The University of Bristol aeronautics graduate fitted the Puch with high pressure carbon fibre air cylinders used by fire fighters as breathing apparatus in burning buildings.

38 thoughts on “Air-powered scooter

  1. post some links, tell us why we are not all riding compressed-air scooters to work… add something to the debate rather than just claiming to have superior knowledge.

    Personally, I’d rather not have two pressurized containers between my ankles if I were to slip on some leaves!

  2. No doubt, sweavo! Those pressurized containers seem dangerous! Give me a tank full of highly flammable liquid for me to cradle between my legs any day!

    Seriously though, combine that with a solar or wind powered air compressor at your home base and it doesn’t seem like that bad of an idea. Or, go for the simple solution and just ride a bicycle around town.

    Problems and such aside, I would ride it just ’cause it looks neat. With a little bit of work you could make it very steampunk.

  3. @sweavo:
    >tell us why we are not all riding compressed-air scooters to work.

    Because we like finding our scooters where we left them, and not finding they’re the subject of a controlled explosion, and ourselves wanted on terrorism charges, for leaving what looks like an IED attached to a bike.

    But more seriously –
    A can of compressed gas (which will fragment when punctured) is generally actually more dangerous than a can of flammable liquid, which needs to be punctured and then lit.
    I strongly suspect that the energy/weight ratio is much lower for compressed gas, and the efficiency in compressing it is, i understand from a scuba diving friend, pretty low.

  4. for responding to the flammable liquid point.

    Hmm, LPG anyone? flammable AND pressurized?

    Heh, and the “why we aren’t all doing this” was more a question of “OK, if it’s been done before, what were the lessons we learned?” e.g. the atmospheric railways of the Industrial Revolution were rather neat, but also had a high maintenance effort in keeping a good air seal.

    I’m suspecting the lack of adoption of air-scooters has to do with the inefficiency of “charging” the air cylinders coupled with the time taken to do so.

  5. “A can of compressed gas (which will fragment when punctured)…”

    No, I don’t think so. A puncture on a cylinder may result in a high pressure jet (which could in itself be dangerous) of air striking your skin, but it would very likely NOT result in fragmentation. Cue the “Mythbusters” results: they fired a round from an M1 Garand at a fully-pressurized scuba tank. It resulted in a bullet-sized hole (no fragmentation) and the pressure within caused the cylinder to fly around the shipping container for several seconds.

    So you may definitely have legitimate safety concerns, but I don’t think that grenade-style fragmentation is one of them.

  6. Compressed air power is only really practical to a limited extent, by itself (that is, as the sole source of power for a vehicle). According to Wikipedia, a 5L bottle compressed to normal operating pressures for a carbon fibre bottle, contained about 0.16 kWh of potential energy. This guys looks like he has two of those (although they might be larger bottles, its hard to tell from the photo). So maybe 0.32-0.4 kWh. Fine for a low speed moped, if you do a good job of harnessing the energy released. Just not very fast and not very far.

    I applaud his work, its obviously a good fit for his needs, less complicated that converting to electric and from the look on his face, he’s had a good time with it. But this technology is not likely to be mass produced as it stands, its just not practical for a large enough customer base for large manufacturers to consider it financially viable. Which isn’t to say small companies or individuals couldn’t make it so for fewer customers.

    As for the safety concerns, the safety factors built compressed gas tanks would make the failure from rupture a very minor concern compared with the much more realistic problem of being mown down by a car driver how didn’t see you (a problem for all two wheelers).

  7. Why not use liquid C02? I mean, if you are going to expend energy compressing a gas just to emit it again later, why not use something that is a byproduct of industrial and medical oxygen liquification? Aside from that, you can store five times as much CO2 as High pressure air in the same size cylinder. And heck, if we really want to be green about it, then we can also make the argument that (assuming green power generation to enable compression) the more C02 we sequester in tanks for later use, the less is actively IN the atmosphere.

  8. I don’t know about metal canisters (though, the mythbusters things seems to cover them) but a carbon fiber canister, like the ones used in many Firefigher breathing setups or paintball guns, is suppoed to be designed in such a way that it splinters into harmless threads when punctured. This eliminates the issue of shrapnel, assuming it was ever an actual issue, and also should help limit the “high speed jet of air” issue as the air escapes from a larger rupture area.

  9. When you compress a gas, it gets hot. When you leave it in a tank, it cools off, i.e. that energy goes away. Compressed gas energy storage systems typically do something to either store the heat, either by keeping the gas hot or using a heat exchanger of some kind. Some even *reheat* the gas before decompressing — this sounds strange but when you work out the thermodynamics it makes sense. Without doing so, the efficiency isn’t so good — you’d be way better off with batteries.

    Still, it’s a neat hack. To the people claiming it’s old tech — well, yes, it is. So are electric cars, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want a Tesla Roadster.

  10. Thank you Jamie, for your excellent work carefully placing together this intricate web of clues to inform us of the truth and in turn, ripping to shreds Stansfield’s evil plan to corner the air powered bike market by claiming to be the first. Sherlock Holmes has nothing on you.

  11. “It actually fires out cleaner air” — Sheesh, can somebody clue in this Neanderthal about the 1st Law of Thermodynamics?

    Compressing any gas to temporarily store energy is inherently inefficient because compressing a gas heats it up, and unless this sheesh herder wants to huddled around his compressor during the deep of winter, this low conversion efficiency is why compressed air as a power source is so ludicrously infantile.

    And we haven’t even begun to consider drive-train losses and frictional losses in the reciprocating compressor, or even motor-efficiency losses.

  12. Okay, so its inefficient. The point is, it does not release pollutants where it is driven. Granted, the electric power station and electric air compressor may be relatively inefficient, but the moped is probably not noisey and spewing smoke itself.

    I wonder how high a pressure the air is. Am guessing hundreds of psi. In california, service stations are supposed to offer free air to customers, but that is in the 50 psi range or so. Filling up at someone else’s expense in an interesting idea.

    I wonder if the belt drive and air motor is as efficient as a jet of air propelled directly to the rear? Seems like that might be more direct…

  13. Um, what does emitting cleaner air have to do with the First Law of Thermodynamics? No need to label the author as an extinct hominid subspecies. I didn’t read any claims of free energy, just zero emissions at the point of use. And since air compressors generally filter air to protect the machinery, it stands to reason that the air coming out would be cleaner than the ambient air even without additional filtration.

    No doubt energy is lost when the stored compressed air cools down, but once it reaches ambient it will hold a “charger” better than any electrochemical battery. This method of energy storage still has some viability in hybrid systems, on the large scale, and for storing excess energy from intermittent renewable sources like solar and wind.

  14. Air powered vehicle would not produce cancerous emmisions. A scuba tank cost $2.50 to fill to 3500psi. If I fill the tank will 100 psi of air and It makes my scooter go 1 mile. with proper gearing, possibly a little regenerative flywheel action, how far could I go, 10 miles? 20 miles? It is no longer a falicy this is reality. Right now the oil companies are running scared. Now is the time to make it happen. I have a scooter that has an air tank , motor, and I will fill the 150 psi tank with an automotive tire compressor that runs off a solar panel. and I don’t pay anything for fuel. Look out Chevron and others, here we come.

  15. this man u r talking about is on netgeo
    and his program name is planet machenics
    if u have seen this episode u can understand more

  16. I live in Hawaii and I think an air-powered scooter would be ideal for this location. Lots of people ride scooters around the island, particularly in the high-density areas around Honolulu. They rarely travel more than a few miles at a time. And with plenty of sunlight I envision solar powered compressor stations scattered around the island providing very inexpensive refills.

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