Electricity is a huge waste of everything. When it is produced, you are very lucky to convert 40% of the available fuel energy into electricity. And transmitting the stuff in power lines incurs losses of somewhere between 5 and 10%.
And then, at the other end, we have inefficient appliances hell-bent on wasting this attenuated stream of energy, such as fridges that work hard 24-7 to cool down nothing more than air, and TVs and computers which burn more energy turned “off” than when they are actually being used.
Electricity is, in short, a ridiculously dumb way for a civilisation to move its energy around. And now we are using it to move our cars. Yes, I know that electric cars are somewhat better than gasoline ones, but only in the sense that the pollution created to make the car go is moved to somewhere else, namely from the car’s engine to a remote power station.
You could argue that electricity can be produced from renewable sources, but we all know that the vast majority isn’t and isn’t likely to be.
So here’s my solution. Usually we convert mechanical energy (such as from a wind turbine) into electrical and then back into mechanical to make something move. Well let’s just skip the middle step, and run our next-generation cars on something that isn’t electricity.
This baby is the MDI air car, also known as the MiniCAT. Its power source is a tank of compressed air, pressurised to 300 atmospheres. When the air is slowly released it turns the engine and makes the car go. And that’s it – clockwork, but with air acting as the spring.
This car is also much lighter than a regular car because the engine doesn’t get hot and metals with lower melting points, such as aluminium, can be used in its construction.
This is all fine, but now here comes the smart part. By using the mechanical energy of a wind turbine or water wheel to compress our air directly, we can drive our car from mechanical energy only. And by skipping the conversion to electricity we make big energy savings and remove the need for generators, transmission and storage.
This car can travel 150km or more on a single full tank of air, and the tanks, incidentally, are the same ones used by buses to store liquid natural gas, so they are safe and tested. If you can’t see the obvious advantages of a car powered by air, then I suggest you leave the room right now.
As far as I can see, nobody else has proposed this combination of compressed air cars and mechanical energy. If you know of somebody who has then please let me know.
And if anybody has a wad of cash burning a hole in their pocket and would like to fund me to investigate this system properly, then my ears (and my pockets) are wide open and ready for business.
You know, I think we’ll call it the paddy-wagon…