The AIRpod

I am always interested in new technology, but sometimes I hear about something which particularly catches my imagination and fires my enthusiasm. A recent example is Android, which I wrote about here and here. I have a feeling that the Apple iPad might be special too – watch this space in a few months. But there is a technology, that I find intriguing, which is not really anything to do with electronics, but all about cars and transportation. I am not a big fan of cars and, even though I liked the Morgan factory, just regard them as a way to get about. But, what about a car that runs on fresh air …

Of course, the idea of a vehicle that actually uses air as fuel makes no sense, as there is not really any useful energy locked up in air. This is the same as the various proposals for salt water powered engines that crop up from time to time. However, air can be used as a way to store energy, if it is compressed. This is exactly what the developers of the AIRpod are doing.

This revolutionary engine is fairly simple, mechanically speaking, and is driven by the release of pressurized air from an on-board tank. The tank can be filled in a minute using a special high-speed compressor, which might be installed at filling stations. The prototype vehicles also have an electric pump built in, which can be used to fill up overnight at home by just plugging into the mains.

The speed of the first vehicles can reach 30mph and they have a range of about 90 miles. This is all quite satisfactory for use around town. They have zero emissions [except for some cold air which might be used by the climate control system]. How green the vehicles are depends upon how the electricity that drives the pump has been generated, but, even in the worst case, it is a fraction of the carbon footprint of a hydrocarbon fuelled car.

This all compares rather well to other “clean” vehicles. There are no expensive batteries, which take hours to charge and need replacing every few years. There is no tank of explosive fuel – like hydrogen. Also, the cars can be built very cheaply, which is an added bonus.

The future looks very good for this technology, with several manufacturing deals already signed all over the world. The designers see the potential for scaling up the technology and projects a car that could achieve 100mph and have a range of 900 miles. That sounds like my kind of car!

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at https://blogs.sw.siemens.com/embedded-software/2010/03/05/the-airpod/