FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
In a traditional classroom, you have... homework/lecture, homework/lecture, and then you have a
snapshot exam. After that exam, whether you get a 70%, an 80%, a 90%, or a 95%, the class moves on to the next
topic...And then you go build on that in the next concept. That's analogous to, imagine learning to ride a bicycle.
And I give you a bicycle...and then I come back after two weeks, and I say, "Well...you're an 80% bicyclist," so I put
a big "C" stamp on your forehead, and then I say, "Here's a unicycle."
—Salman Khan, KhanAcademy.org
(For more detailed information, consult the downloadable materials or join the
WHAT IS AN AIR CAR?
Not a flying
car or hovercraft. Air cars have tires and run on the road like any car.
Instead of a gas engine they have an engine that runs on compressed
air. Instead of a gas tank they have an air tank, like a scuba
tank but bigger.
HOW FAST CAN AIR CARS GO?
The sky's the
limit. Depending on the design, air can make a car putt-putt
around town or burn rubber on the race track. Air engines work
like steam engines: expansively rather than combustively. This
gives them the highly desirable characteristic of maximum torque at
starting speed, unlike the gas engine which must be geared down from
the high speeds at which it must malfunction in order to not
HOW FAR DO AIR CARS GO BETWEEN FILL-UPS?
There are three answers for three different types of air car.
Hybrid air cars carry a gas-powered engine and compressor on-board, so their
range depends on the efficiency of the system and the size of the
Conventional air cars, such as the pneumatic locomotives
that were available commercially from about 1890 to 1940, stop at air
stations to refill their tanks. These cars can be designed to go 1 to 50
miles between fill-ups, depending on the efficiency of the system,
the size and pressure of the tanks, and the ingenuity of the
Free range air cars are powered by
ambient heat, a form of solar energy. Such
cars are experimental in nature, and getting an inventor to give up
his secret is harder than figuring it out for yourself. Hint:
absolute zero (if the sun went out, for example) is about 460 degrees
below 0 degrees Fahrenheit, or 270 degrees below 0 degrees Celsius.
A free range air car is any air car that carries a compressor (or more than one)
as its main air supply.
HOW COULD SOLAR ENERGY POWER AN AIR CAR?
panels, mirrors, lenses or other solar collectors are involved.
The Earth's atmosphere is a gigantic air tank containing over four
quadrillion tons of compressed air at the pressure of 14.7 pounds per
square inch at sea level, or less on top of Mount Everest.
If not for
the sun's heat, the oxygen, nitrogen and other components of our atmosphere would be mixed with the rocks and
soil of the earth as solid substances. The sun adds about 500 degrees of temperature (Fahrenheit) to the air
and all this heat is stored in air. When air is pushed into a
tank, that is, compressed above atmospheric pressure, its internal
energy (heat from any source, mostly the sun) becomes available to operate an air motor.
WHY HASN'T THIS ALREADY BEEN DONE?
air cars have been around since the 1880s. Hundreds of patents
have been granted to inventors of air cars. After about 1930,
the term "air engine" was no longer used in engineering textbooks, and
the pneumatic locomotives which once proliferated in mining were
mostly replaced by electric conveyances which had not been safe or
reliable until then. It was becoming apparent by 1930 that
compressed air was going to displace the fuel industry with free solar
energy, and sometime during the second world war it became unpopular
in engineering circles to mention compressed air as an
energy carrier of any importance. Gas was cheap at the time, and there was little
apparent need to consider alternatives; we ate what the oil companies
fed us, and now we are paying 20 times more for a gallon of gas than I used to pay when I first started
driving 40 years ago.
answer: we are letting profit-oriented mega-corporations make our
decisions for us, instead of thinking about what we could be doing to
improve our conditions and the condition of our environment. And
why not? Middle-class people are still living like aristocrats compared
to most of the world.
WHAT IS THERE TO LOSE IF WE WERE TO SWITCH OVER TO AIR?
- Control of
your transportation needs by energy monopolies.
air pollution. Pollution of the ocean's due to oil spills. Destruction of the environment due to fracking.
destabilization caused by manipulation of oil prices.
- Global warming.
WHAT'S WRONG WITH THE OTHER ALTERNATIVES?
cars use power generated by coal, nuclear power, and dams. They
require hours to recharge. Batteries must be replaced
frequently, and have no place to go when they die. Materials
used in conventional batteries are caustic and poisonous.
Materials used in exotic batteries are not necessarily more abundant than petroleum.
Batteries are many times heavier than air tanks.
cars use combustion engines, which are Rube Goldberg devices that an
enlightened public would refuse to buy. Hydrogen must be stored
in an altered form to keep it from being many times more explosive
than gasoline or diesel. Hydrogen cars exhaust water, which will
freeze on the road in cold weather and increase the humidity of the
atmosphere, effecting the climate. Hydrogen is
more costly to produce as a fuel than fossil fuels. How do we propose to produce hydrogen in factories
powered by hydrogen? I thought this was a joke until Pres. George W. Bush endorsed hydrogen cars. Then I
KNEW it was a joke.
solution is the best solution. Air tanks don't really wear out
or explode; not like batteries do, and nowhere near as often.
Air engines require less frequent oil changes than gas engines because they run at low temperatures, and
can be designed to be almost lubricant-free. No chemical reactions take place in
the compression and expansion of air. Air compressors actually clean the air by filtering it,
and no air motor increases greenhouse gases. All the necessary
technology has existed for 100 years. Simple solutions cost
less. Homespun mechanics will be back in business. High
tech = high cost. Compressed air is solar energy. Solar
energy is free energy.
that a new cheap way to compress air is essential in order to prevent
the need for air cars to carry big high pressure tanks. The
tanks are safe, but the problem is that filling them quickly,
especially if there is any water in them, can make them dangerous.
People are always in a hurry and technology in poor countries is
imperfect, so I think the free range air car should be everyone's
eventual goal in this field. An air car with no compressor on
board is stupid.