Driving Today

Compressed Air May Be New Power Source for Modern Cars

Technology that dates to the 1800s may find its place in today’s car industry.

If you’re seeking clean air, how would you like an engine that actually emits it? That’s one of the reasons why compressed-air engine technology, which dates back to the mid-1800s, is getting a second look today. W2 Energy Inc. has just announced that it has built a small compressed-air version of its StreamRay rotary engine, designed specifically to power vehicles. This particular StreamRay will power a line of high-end compressed-air motorcycles, which is currently being designed by a major motorcycle and chopper manufacturer. It will also power a new version of the Solar Bug. Compressed-air vehicle can either be charges at home with a stationary air compressor, or on the road with scuba-type air tanks.

“We at W2 Energy think that compressed-air vehicles are one of the hot trends in high-efficiency, low-pollution vehicles,” says Michael McLaren, president and CEO of W2 Energy. “These vehicles will be quiet, incredibly fast, and very powerful. I look forward to driving one myself.”

Of course, the technology is not really new. Pneumatic motors are used to power things as diverse as hand tools, mining locomotives and torpedoes. On July 9, 1840, Frenchmen Andraud and Tessie drove a rudimentary car powered by a compressed-air motor in Chaillot, France … and then they disappeared from the history books. Later, also in France, Mekarski system pneumatic locomotives were used on the tramway at Nantes. In America, compressed-air-powered locomotives were used in underground mines, mostly for safety reasons: Their motors did not involve combustion or give off sparks that could ignite gases in the mines. That technology, such as it was, is now being revisited.



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