Thursday, March 05, 2009

AIRPod: MDI unveils air-engined trike


Compressed air engines for two- and three-wheelers? Well, this is a start...

We had earlier written about Moteur Development International’s (MDI) air-powered engines here and we wondered if these would ever find use on a motorcycle. Well, it’s happened already – MDI have unveiled the AIRPod at the ongoing Geneva Motor Show and this zero-emissions three-wheeler is fitted with one of the company’s air engines!

Indeed, the MDI AIRPod – a 220kg three-wheeler that can seat two people – runs on compressed air. With the air engine making only about 5.5bhp, top speed is 45km/h, though the little trike has a range of 200km on one full tank of air. Also, the AIRPod's carbonfibre air tank can be topped up with compressed air in just 90 seconds. No petrol, no biofuel, no batteries, no electricity – the AIRPod’s engine runs on compressed air and nothing else.

As you would expect, this technology is not ready to hit the streets just yet, though MDI believes that that would be made easily possible with the co-operation of a major two-wheeler and/or four-wheeler manufacturer. Apart from engines that run only on compressed air, MDI have also developed an air-fuel hybrid system, which uses a combination of compressed air and regular petrol. Prototypes fitted with this hybrid system can travel up to 100km in air-only, zero emissions mode, and have an overall range of up to 900km.

Air engines do seem to be a bit of a pipe dream, though the guys at MDI strongly believe that their engines are more than just so much hot air. Ah, well, if we can have lithium-ion batteries and hydrogen fuel cells powering tomorrow’s motorcycles, maybe the air engine also deserves a chance to blow off some steam after all…

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