The Future: Hybridization
Like a hybrid automobile that combines gas and electric, an air-gas hybrid can create a balanced machine. Compressed air does not store as much energy as gasoline. Internal combustion engines create a lot of waste heat. When the heat from ICE exhaust is recompressed, it eliminates freeze-up and increases the power of the engine. A gasoline-powered compressor, similar to a range-extending engine, can refill the tank of an air car while it drives.
Robert C. Burt was a GE scientist who patented an air car in 1932. It used a four-cylinder engine to power his compressor. The design lay stagnant for decades before receiving a little interest in 1980. The machine never made production.
Guy Negre of MDI continues to improve his air vehicles.
CJ Marquand, from the University of Westminster, is developing an engine that efficiently recaptures and reincorporates engine heat. He is also using regenerative braking to improve efficiency.
UCLA's Tsu-Chin Tsao is developing a gas-air hybrid engine that does not idle and uses a compressor to refill the air tank from braking energy.
Angelo DiPietro is perfecting a rotary air engine.
Will a tank of compressed air power your car to the future? It's not that simple. There may be too many barriers for a car run only on compressed air. Compressed air does not have the power to produce the speed needed and filling the tank may use more energy that it's worth. But the concept has great potential. When combined with electric and gas technology, compressed air power could greatly reduce the environmental impact of daily transportation.