Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Future of Transportation, Coal

Hot Air has a bit on another coal-powered car. It's small, natch, has 3 wheels, which makes it a motorcycle in many states, and runs on compressed air.

Top speed is 40 KPH and range is 150-200 Km which puts it firmly in the same range as a golf cart, but not as good as the Tuk-Tuk.

They also put the single wheel up front, which is a disaster waiting to happen. They didn't go into what it was made of, but fiberglass, one layer, seems to be a good guess. As a motorcycle, that's one more layer than you usually get, and in the winter I appreciate all the layers I can get.. No big battery is required, but a middling sized one would be required to run things like headlights and maybe a heater.

I suppose you could turn this into a hybrid by adding a small contractors compressor in the boot, running on gasoline to pressurize the tank.


Brad K. said...

When you said, "runs on coal" I was thinking coal fired steam turbine or even steam reciprocating (like the old steam locomotives and war ships) engines.

That would be cool, especially if you could use multiple fuels, including charcoal, coke (the denatured form of coal, or nearly pure carbon, not the kind they had to take out of Coca-Cola, way back when), or wood. Or shredded White House papers, or old politician memoirs. Or dried mouse and squirrel carcasses. Or wood pellets or shelled corn.

If you were to combine the air-power tech with the land-sailing approach, could you significantly extend the range? And if you used a wind-generator for electricity to power the heater, would that drop the speed and range as much as adding a battery? Is there a hand-pump to use for emergencies, and how long do you have to pump per mile?

How much pressure is the air under, and what is the risk of it going ballistic if it gets banged around, like say bashing into a utility pole at night on the way home from, uh, a drink with the boys and running off the road into the ditch and hitting a @#$ tree (one neighbor) or hitting a culvert and flipping the car (another neighbor) or hitting a utility pole and knocking it over (yet another neighbor, but he only drives when drinking, 'cause he lost his license)? (These all happened at my driveway in the last eight years, just north of a place in the road where it jogs over to the East about 25 feet.) Or (and this one happened to me) some lady in a Chevy truck turns left into me when I have the green light? I mean, it totaled my car, and she had a smudge of white paint on her 25 year old bumper!

Does the weight of the individual occupant unduly affect speed and/ or range? Can it pull a bass boat up the ramp and down the road? Where do you put the deer, the gun case, and the cooler? How many junk refrigerators can you haul at the same time? Can you make the mother in law sit in back? Will it get hung up if I get a bit off the main road, like, sparking down by the creek on a moon-lit night? Will the horn play the Iowa Fight song (like my uncle's old van, except around Lincoln, NE. He got a ticket for that one, something about "disturbing" the peace)?

It looks nice, but I think the pickup I got will do for now. I noticed a Ford Transit at Wal-Mart yesterday. That looks pretty sharp.

Brad K. said...

On second thought - why not air compressing wind mills? Make them in triplets, for a three stage compression scheme - high volume, moderate compression stage, followed by a moderate volume, higher compression stage, followed by a still higher compression stage.

I am sure, with compressed air available, someone will work out piping air to the home to power fans, vacuum cleaners, and aquarium filters. This might even re-invent the need for a true self-triggers squirrel cannon trap.

jed said...

I watched a vid on YouTube of a couple of these things tottering around a parking lot. Sound like the Jolly Green Giant's sewing machine. Comments at Hot Air indicate they're driving a cylinder engine with the air, so I assume that if you're going to stick an engine in it to turn it into a hybrid, you might as well just run the car on the engine.

Not sure you can call it a tricycle with the front steering assembly consisting of two small wheels side by side. I think an overly sharp turn at speed would just collapse the undercarriage.

And I wouldn't want to share the road in it with anything bigger than a Vespa. Not that I'd be caught dead driving one -- the Vespa would be a better choice.

Billll said...

With a combination of vivid imaginations, imaginative writing skills, and a complete absence of ethics, we should be able to turn this into a significant pile of stimulus money.

The stimulus program is currently paying an average of some $400,000/job for transportation-related positions, so multiply by the three of us, call that amount 49%, and promise to spend the remainder on compressed-air powered go-karts.

jed said...

Well, I just had to search for Tuk-Tuk. Found, which of course made me think of Cushman. But that look is too pedestrian. I wonder, given the re-introduction of the Fiat 500, if there wouldn't be some market for a green hipster Isetta. The challenge facing us would be, however, to abandon almost all pretense of real-world relationships and dependencies.

But I do have some thoughts re. construction techniques which would be hailed by the eco-nuts. Not sure whether I can apply sufficient cynicism to the question of propulsion.

Billll said...

Here it is, found it myself using the clever new search bar. I admit I would not have been able to find this without it: