The Ford Global Challenge - Deakin Uni Air Powered T2 Wins the Prize

Last month, we introduced the Ford Global Challenge, through which Ford sponsored six student teams from around the world to envision and build a 21st century replacement for the Model T Ford, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary. The aim was to keep it cheap and simple while meeting sustainability challenges.

Well the winners have now been announced, and the 'T2' Air Powered Car from Australia's Deakin University was joint winner with the '2015 Ford Model T' from Aachen University in Germany.

The competition received only limited media coverage. Perhaps they have something else on their minds at the moment? provides the most detailed coverage:

The Challenge

The four-month competition included teams of undergraduate, graduate and even high school students from schools around the world, who worked to create innovative concepts to address the transportation needs of the future. Participating schools included: Aachen University, Aachen, Germany; Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, Calif.; Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia; Lawrence Technological University, Southfield, Mich.; University of Michigan-Dearborn, Dearborn, Mich.; and West Philadelphia High School, Philadelphia, Pa.

Each student team received $75,000 in funding from Ford Global Technologies to support the creation of a vehicle concept through sketches, models, research papers and potentially even working models that delivered on the brief.

The teams were challenged to create a vehicle that is simple, durable and lightweight. Each vehicle must accommodate at least two people and offer solutions that address assembly, powertrain and sustainability challenges. Perhaps the most challenging criteria was that the concept vehicle was required to have a range of at least 200 kilometers (approximately 125 miles), and come equipped with a base target price of no more than $7,000.

Students worked against a deadline of Sept. 1 to submit their proposals. Five judges from Ford Motor Company, including Coughlin, critiqued each concept to select two concepts that best embodied the Model T spirit, personified the Ford brand and met the challenge criteria.

The team from Deakin university, were excited to be announced as joint winners on 1 October, as reported by The Age in Melbourne:

The Deakin University students created the 'Model T2', a three-wheel vehicle platform with a novel steering system and compressed air rotary hub motors. The Age reported on Deakin's win:

"To come away with the win has just blown us away," said Deakin team member Tim de Souza.

Mr de Souza said the team wanted to keep the car as simple and as cheap as possible and believes it could be mass produced and retailed for less than $9000.

The T2 has its compressed air motors mounted in the hubs of the front wheels, which are fixed in the straight-ahead position. The rear wheel hangs loose, like a castor wheel on furniture. Steering is achieved by directing more compressed air to one motor than the other.

The T2 would have a range of 60 to 80 kilometres on a 60-litre tank of compressed air.

Deakin University has a thing or two to say about their winning car also:

Dr Bernard Rolfe, the Deakin Project Leader, said that T2’s use of the latest research and technology has re-defined the idea of an inexpensive, innovative and sustainable car. 'Our design, developed by a cross-disciplinary team effort from across the University, has "plenty of bang for the buck". As well, T2 is a very green machine,' Dr Rolfe said. Ford called the design 'simple, lightweight, practical, compelling and low cost.'

Deakin University’s T2 runs on compressed air (with some compressed natural gas support for longer distance travel). It incorporates safety proven lightweight materials in which Deakin is an acknowledged world leader. With three wheels, it can turn 360° on itself, making inner city parking easy. The simplicity of the design means that it can be assembled at accredited Ford dealers, which was the original business model used by Ford Australia back in the early 1920s when the Model T was first launched in Australia. The key design points include:

  • High torque compressed air wheel hub motors to reduce vehicle emissions to zero, depending on the distance option chosen
  • Differential wheel speeds to steer the car via hub motors – so the car doesn't need a conventional gearbox, driveline and steering rack-pinion systems
  • Utilising the wheel hub motor concept with only three wheels to increase agility and reduce costs and weight
  • Use of Ultra High Strength Steels and novel manufacturing methods to increase strength, while reducing costs and weight
  • A flexible, easily adaptable human-machine interface to keep the vehicle competitive for at least a decade of advances in software technology.

Joint award winners from Aachen University in Germany created the "2015 Ford Model T", using a basic structure with derivatives including a compact pickup, sedan, and mini city car, with a simple steel body that could be built using standard tools.

One thing I take away from this, which Ford should not find surprising, is that it's pretty darn hard to build a car for $7,000 that can run 200 kms (125 miles) while being more sustainable than current vehicles. The fact that the Deakin Uni air car can run 80kms on its 60L tank of compressed air is impressive, but didn't meet Fords aim in the challenge, which is presumably why they also chose a simpler and more conventional car as joint winner.

Perhaps Ford with their share of the $25 billion in loans to the Detroit car industry will be able to go further than these university teams but I think they will find the going tough too!

Other Air Car Stories on TOD:

The Ford Global Challenge - A Green Car That Runs On Air?
The Air Car - A Breath Of Fresh Air Or A Waste Of Breath?
Q & A With Louis Arnoux of IT-MDI.

80 km on a 60 L tank of compressed air; how is this different from the MDI vehicle from France? Without any numbers attached, I'm highly skeptical, MDI hasn't been able to make it work at this level of performance either. The concept comes from F1 cars some years ago when they used compressed air to spin the engines to start them rather than an electro-mechanical starter. While it works, it doesn't work efficiently. There's nothing in here about the pressure of the 60 L tank, it would have to be several hundred atmospheres. An interesting problem to prevent it from blowing apart in a hard collision.

rest assured, your TOD editors do not see air powered cars as the silver bullet solution to peak oil! i'm just reporting here on what happened at the Ford Global Challenge.

i've edited the story to add links to the previous air car stories here at TOD. they face plenty of challenges, just like many alternatives, but may be one small part of the solution in particular applications.

Phil - Do you know whether Deakin are planning to use the Di Pietro engine in this car? From what I understand the hub concept is the approach Angelo recommends. See

I've sent an email to Bernard Rolfe at Deakin. Will post back here if I get a reply..

Here's the email back from Bernard:

Yes we used a hub motor concept, slightly different to Angelo's approach.

I have seen some skeptical comments to our story. Setting aside the point that we should all ride, which is the cleanest vehicle, the readers should ask themselves how would they power a $7000 vehicle for the emerging markets of India and China? This is what they demand, how can we provide as green as possible vehicle for them?

Our concept was compressed air which centralizes emissions to the grid. Can you create a smaller carbon footprint vehicle to retail at $7000 with an electric engine or a hybrid that can travel 200km on one tank/refill? Remember to include the initial creation carbon costs and the disassembly carbon costs. This is the global challenge for today.

Many thanks

Note: I live in the US.

For me, the terms "car" and "sustainability" just don't go together, especially when I know a 30-lb. non-polluting vehicle gets the job done.

Can someone please answer this for me? If energy independence and curbing of emissions are truly the goals, why is it that all kinds of money (that we don't have, no less!) is being thrown for development and purchasing (i.e. tax credits for hybrids) of cars, while absolutely nothing is given to anyone using or buying bicycles or for the development of compact, mixed-use, walkable development, which beat the hell out of cars in all of these aspects?? I received nearly $3000 in tax credits for buying my Prius. That $3000 could have bought close to 10 very decent bikes that could have done much more good than _any_ car... not to mention the health benefits that our society sorely needs.

No offense towards this post, but the U.S.'s shockingly complacent attitude, even with what's being going on in Atlanta, is really getting under my skin lately.


I aggree - like billions are wasted to bail out a failed banking industry, billions are also wasted to rescue the outdated concept of the car industry.

The conventional bicycle is the most energy efficient vehicle. Nothing even comes close to it. However there are uses where a bicycle is not as easy or convenient to use:

Climbing hills is very well possible (I love to ride my bike in the alps) but you need some training and it takes some time. In the mountain region Engadin in Switzerland there is a net of renting and recharging stations for electric bicycles ( An electric bicycle is still very efficient but does not need the same amount of body fitness. Even the best alternative car concept does not even come close to an electric bicycle.

The amount of cargo you can carry on a bicycle is limited. There exist special cargo bicycles and bicycle trailers on the market. You can easily carry 4 children or up to 200 lbs cargo on a bicycle. There are few occasions where you need more carrying capacity. Sharing a car for those special occasions within a community is a good solution. You find a sample of car sharing stations of DB carsharing in Germany here:

Of course long distance commute cannot be solved by car sharing or with bicycles alone. However public transport (much less energy efficient than bicycles but still better than individual cars) can be combined with cycling. If your job is 30 miles away it would take quite long to get there by bicycle. However if there is a train station just 3 miles away, it is possible to cycle to the train station and take the train to get to work. This would greatly increase the possible use of public transport for long distance commute.

Individual car usage can easyly be reduced by over 50%. The remaining cars could be made 25% more fuel efficent without huge efforts. This would result in a reduction of more than 60% of energy.

Other energy usages are far more difficlult to reduce:

Trucks are a lot more energy efficent than passenger cars. There is no easy solution to replace them. Some cargo can be placed on trains and some long distance shippments can be avoided in buying more local goods. I would guess that achieving 20% less energy concumption is all you can get here.

Heating uses a lot of energy. Reducing the temperature by just one or two degrees already saves a lot of energy. Proper insulation of homes could reduce the energy used for heating by more than 50%. However this is a long process and not as easyly done as switching to bicycles.

Industry usage of energy seems a lot harder to reduce.

All together the overall energy usage can easyly be reduced by 20%. Regarding peak oil this would buy us at least 10 years time to work on further reaching solutions to increase energy efficiency and develop alternative sources of energy.

However we have to do that now and stop putting all that money (dept!) and remaining cheap energy into solutions that save the old companies but do not provide real solutions.

Edinburgh (UK) is currently building a tram system for over £500m. Meanwhile, the council budget for cycling is enough to pay for 2 bicycle road crossings per year :(

Most people I know would be willing to cycle (Edinburgh is a fairly compact city), but are too scared of the traffic. Imagine how we could transform the city for cyclists with £500m!

"Climbing hills" - add an assist system like in Trondheim Norway if the hill is really that steep.

"Limited cargo" - delivery trucks do that job remarkably well.

"Long distance commute" - is never going to be sustainable, no matter what mode.

"Long distance travel" - works well with buses, trains, vans.

"Can't replace trucks" - but he said cars aren't sustainable. He didn't say anything about delivery trucks.

People are just too lazy to try bikes; it's hard to show off your socio/economic status with a bike; helmets mess up people's hair; too lazy to dress for the weather - might as well spell out the real reasons.

People are just too lazy to try bikes; it's hard to show off your socio/economic status with a bike; helmets mess up people's hair; too lazy to dress for the weather - might as well spell out the real reasons.

I'd like to add that you might need shower facilities at either end of the journey. That adds to the commute time. What if you have to wear a suit, shirt, etc. to work?

"All together the overall energy usage can easyly be reduced by 20%. Regarding peak oil this would buy us at least 10 years time..."

Why 10 years? Assuming 5% decline or more (including decreasing exports due to increased consumption in the OPEC countries) oil production goes down 50% in 10 years. Or did I get you wrong?

According to the forecast of Colin Campbell ( the oil and gas liquids production will drop from 31 GB/a in 2008 to about 26.5 GB/a in 2020 (rough numbers read from the graph). This is a bit less than a 20% reduction within 12 years.

i find it incredible that anyone should receive nearly $3000 in tax credits for buying any sort of car:-( Are these credits available for any car or just hybrids or ???

How many Pentagon dollars does it cost to keep the average American car running on imported oil for fifteen years? To say nothing of health costs from smog.

I see it as the opposite of a user fee; a non-user refund.

The credits will be for hybrids and electrics, and talk is about basing it on battery size, all the way up to $7500. The problem is that I could design a lousy car that runs on lead-acid batteries but does so very inefficiently, then sell it for $15,000 knowing the government will cover half of it. We need to reward aerodynamics, safe weight savings, and creative interior packaging to really exploit electricity for propulsion.

Note that:
1) few people are convinced that there is any real problem. I work with lots of engineers who are not worried about peak oil, soil and aquifer degradation/depletion etc etc. I've got books (Jaques Cousteau) from the 1970's about many of these issues - and clearly the world didn't go boom!
2) We live in an age of technology worship. Few are willing to admit that technology will not solve the problems that technology created. Few are willing to accept that sometimes doing without is better than fancy technical solutions. I'm an engineer, but I believe that the best toilet technology is a pail and sawdust/leaves/coffee filters and a pair of big compost bins. I've tried the gambit of low flush, dual flush toilets and the better the technology gets - the more finicky it is and the more dependent upon inputs meeting very particular criteria (anyone care to pump 1940's gasoline into a modern car?)
3) Generally we've very optimistic about the future and can't believe that things can turn bad. Few people living (here in the west) experienced the great depression, much less conditions in the former eastern block. My friends from the eastern block see no benefit to their former way of life and have embraced life in the west. Like those of us who have been coddled in the western lifestyle - we don't want to give anything up. We feel very entitled.

Note that people who survived the depression have very curious adaptations, by my standards. They'll scrimp to save a bit of water washing dishes - but have no concept for how much electricity they're wasting - and take home heating for granted.
My favorite phrase by a coworker is that he's not going "to freeze in the dark" - so he leaves all of the lights and heating on - even in rooms which will not be used for another month or two (each room using about 10x the electricity of my family of 4 and likely more heating/cooling than my home.
I would say that, in Canada, few people have even accepted that there may be a recession in progress. I'm watching ground breaking on massive tower construction projects as well as "borg cubes" (student housing units which are roughly cube like and 3 stories high). Nobody around here stores food or cooking fuel and they make more garbage in a single week than my family makes in several months. We've all led a very soft and easy life and can't image any different.

We won't get rid of cars anytime soon, so it's very important to make them as efficient as possible, but you're absolutely right about them being inherently unsustainable. The problem isn't just their fuel consumption, but their consumption of space. Look at how much parking space they use when stopped and road space they use when moving. Parking lots and garages are sized for peak capacity. Wide roads and open parking lots add to sprawl while underground and multi-story parking garages are a huge expense provided as a subsidy to drivers.

A Prius is a marvel of efficiency. It's more efficient than my motorcycle, but it uses as much space as a gas guzzler. A Smart Car could use half the parking space if cities allowed perpindicular curb parking, but otherwise it uses the same space as a regular car. Maybe we can cut down on parked cars with ride-share and car-share programs.

I was watching BBC World some months back and they were showing a compressed air powered car. I cant remember many details on it but at one point they showed a clip where it was hooked up to a chugging diesel air compressor for recharging.

Sort of defeats the point doesnt it.

Sort of defeats the point doesnt it.

No, it doesn't. Any electricity source can be used to compress air.

Air can also be compressed by manual input i.e by pedalling or using a foot pump. You can also use wind turbines directly coupled to a compressor, water wheel or even solar heated steam turbines.

The big problem with air is efficiency. A lot of the energy is lost through heat and compressed air often has to be dried before it can be used to power anything. Air motors usually require some sort of continual lubrication which is emitted with the exhaust, but thats much better than CO2 and allteh other nasties.

I would not be at all surprised to see a compressed air/electric hybrid vehicle of some sort in the future, where the air is used for rapid acceleration from a standing start, cruisng speed maintained by an electric system and energy recovered by regenerative braking through the electrical system. Some of the power for cruising may also be able to come from PV. By not drawing down you air supply for cruising, you may be able to get by with lower pressure tanks hich could be incorporated into voids in the body of the car. It wouldn't be a thumping V8 sedan with all the trimmings but it might mke a good low cost commuter vehicle. The T2 goes part of the way in the design and power system and I'm sure that there couldbe much improvement if Ford puts its mind to it.

Once a designer decides to incorporate an electric drive, the efficiency penalties of then also including an air drive system would make it a ridiculous design. Air compressors driven by electricity MAY achieve 78% efficiency, PROVIDED none of resulting compressed air is allowed to cool below compressor output temperature. Real world net efficiency of a compressed air motor drive system is likely well below 25% overall, whereas a battery electric drive can rationally target 75% to 80% with present technology.

Compressed air cars are going nowhere. I can show you the math to prove it.

Whether or not they go anywhere compared to EVs depends on the costs of batteries and electricity. While air cars are inefficient, they also don't need periodic battery replacement, so if the cost of the batteries per kWh stored is greater than the difference in cost due to the lower efficiency of the air car, then the air car will be cheaper to operate. Odds are adoption of either would be regional and depend on the price of fuel and electricity.

Where efficiency matters compressed air cars fall far short of electric cars.
They might though be much cheaper to build than electric cars due to battery costs - the jury is still out.
So for some regions they might offer an alternative for city runabouts.
France has cheap electricity from nuclear, and surplus capacity off peak, and Australia has plenty of cheap coal, with admittedly adverse environmental implications.
A build of compressed air cars in places like that where efficiency is not critical but cost of new cars is might be a good option, but there has been a lot of talk for years about the technology and little concrete result.

How do high speed super strength flywheels compare to batteries as a mobile energy storage system? Flywheels can be made from common carbon based plastics and are thus not limited by materials considerations.

AFAIK flywheel technology in cars was mainly considered to get more power into the car quickly for acceleration, regenerative braking and hill-climbs than a battery can easily provide.
Progress in capacitors mean that it is probably easier to take that route for this function, as you don't have to build a very strong containment vessel for coping with the flywheel shattering.
For bulk storage of energy flywheels are usually considered in stationary applications where the weight of the containment vessel does not matter.

Like I always say about this stuff:

Sounds great! Let us know when it's in the stores! Until then, let's rely on what we've already got.


has just built and sells it Tata Nanno for $2500. Why IS Ford looking for a $9000 white elephant prototype??

(Being a Chevvy man myself)I think Ford is hoping for that million to one chance where some stranger, not in the auto business, saves its ass with a break through.

Having said that, it is a wonderful idea for the Universities to exercise their students. I am not sure that any Faculty, or Dr.So and So should be allowed, he would probably gets the patents in his own name.

I really like the idea of individual wheel air turbines but see no factor of safety in using them for steering.

Until we change our concept of what a car should be, we are doomed.

Hypothetically, a little 50cc homebrew alcohol engine (made from pig-slop)on a tented bicycle frame could do all that a fancy little upwardly mobile status symbol could do (a bit slower maybe). This would not represent a significant CO2 footprint even with a billion of them, compared with 10 million new cars every year with 4 litre V6's.

We have more of a mental problem than a technical one. Where I am right now, a Dean of a Faculty rides a 70cc motorbike (rain or shine) and many important personages do likewise.

Should we get our needed Benevolent Dictator, shortly after our Anarchy stage, he may have the good sense to allocate a maximum of 25cc engine capacity to each citizen.

Failing that its back to Soylent Green.


One non-gasoline alternative that would combine energy efficiency, range and power, is direct electric. By 'direct', I mean non-battery electric, drawing power straight from the grid. This could be achieved by embedding some sort of conductor rail in the road. A vehicle would pick up current using a pickup shoe or busbar. Direct electric could have a power-plant to wheel efficiency approaching 90%, if AC motors are used. I have never seen this option seriously studied, but it appears to be the most logical choice to me.

Railroads. The railroad is my job.
Delivery of electricity on a road system is being done in several ways, but it is tricky.
Delivery from the ground requires rails, switches, switches require signals and if possible automatic fail-safe braking, and the public needs to be protected from electricity going through the rails.
Trolley-buses run on overhead wires: the buses can run on classic tires, the wires are (more or less) out of reach of the public (flags and poles may have to become prohibited:). The problems of overhead wiring are mostly in the wiring: A four-way crossing needs wires that interrupt at the crossings, and wired corners from each lane to allow for freedom of movement. Serious traffic control headache, and a complex system prone to failure: a vehicle stuck on the crossroads stops traffic until it is pulled away.
It will be necessary, if this is to work, to wire vast amounts of road, front door to front door.
The ultimate efficiency is very desirable, but are we still able to invest in such a thing?

An alternative option would be to have EV with very limited battery or capacitor capacity, perhaps a range of 5-10miles, but with re-charge at all stop lights. This would require much less infrastructure and could take advantage that cars are stationary for 15-60seconds.
Could start with just one lane for re-charging every 1mile, perhaps even a pull-over lane until network was wide-spread.
This would save on costs of batteries the biggest cost of EV or PHEV's, and allow unlimited travel within a city and suburbs with traffic lights.

Have you seen the movie, "Minority Report"? Perhaps not; it stars Tom Cruise. Apparently, Director Speilberg locked up a think tank of futurists for a time and they came up with a pretty cool direct-electric system for getting people door-to-door (vehicles could even be made to travel up and over buildings!).

Yes, "only a movie". But may be worth a look all the same.

Regards, Matt B

The statement we should use more bicycles makes sense...but let's be realistic. For starters, I live in Canada...meaning bike riding is a little tough in December. Anyone want to try riding along the Edmonton River Valley in -25F ? Kick in some snow too & a strong northerly wind.

And there are people that need their car for work. I'm an IT consultant, I drive a Toyota Echo, gets about 55 mpg. I need my car because I travel to clients & bring equipment with me. I can't do that on a bike or on a scooter (or on the transit system). Transportation of some sort is a reality of modern life...

People need to remember that "most" people don't drive that far in a typical day. Maybe 25kms/15 miles. A car like this works for them..and could be combined with a hybrid if you needed a vehicle to travel on the highway. Or if the car sells for 7K, it's feasible that a family owns one of these for around town and a hybrid (CNG or Gas) if they go on trips. OR...inter-city rail is ramped up and long distances are traveled by train with the short distance being covered by these air powered cars.

Think outside the box, imagine a different setup. It's entirely feasible to live this way and still maintain a decent standard of living. Plus I'd bge a happy camper if there were less SUV's on the road.

I grew up in northern Canada as well. Something all these micro-car promoters forget is how much, in a northern winter, they depend on very fuel-costly snow plowing, sanding and salting to survive on the roads. Try living 10 km off the main highways on roads which only get plowed once a week if you're lucky. When that blizzard hits and your child contracts potentially fatal pneumonia or appendicitis, you may abruptly come to realize why my father kept a 1950 1 ton international truck with a 6 litre engine. No S.M.A.R.T. For2 or bike would have gotten me through childhood alive.

Of course, at the time, we didn't realize we were being "eco-pigs". In fact, from what i've read elsewhere, it sounds as though we were living a dream (Sustainable farming producing vegetables for the local community, only electricity a wind generator, mostly horse powered farming, wood-fueled heating and cooking, etc.)

For those sorts of areas biogas derived fuels may be an answer, as there are plenty of resources.
Presumably it would also be possible to design a light weight off-road electric vehicle, although that is hardly a design priority at the moment as they are still trying to figure out how to get city cars to work from electric.
Battery efficiency drops a lot in extreme cold too, so vehicles suitable for such terrain are likely to be at the back of a very long queue.

A little help from the legislators would go a long way. The current roadblock to sales of electric cars here in the Bay Area is the rule against electric cars on freeways, which are the only practical way to get around.

To accommodate the SUV whizzers, the slower vehicles are kept off the freeways. Effort is being expended to get Sacramento to lower the speed limits to 55 on the freeway, with the right lane reserved for vehicles that must maintain 40 mph. Then I could drive my electric bicycle, or 50 cc motorcycle that gets 150 mpg and emits almost no exhaust (4-stroke OHC). My big car is an Echo with a trailer hitch. I have towed 600# 500 miles at 60 mph and 35 mpg. Like those ton-miles per gallon?

A 60 mile range air car makes more sense than battery technologies because the price of energy will always be much lower than the price of energy storage.

For example, a gallon of gasoline is 12 cents per kwh(energy) but a battery with say 1200 cycles(days) of operation in its life costs between $200-$400 per kwh(energy) not including rectifier. Both nickle and lithium are limited in supply so prices would probably skyrocket with demand.

The price of a carbon fiber tank holding 300 bar compressed air not including compressor would be ~$16 per kwh(energy) and could be cycled for several thousand times in its life: $73 for a 165 liter tank x .1MJ/l x .277 kwh/MJ=$16 per kwh

If the price of grid electricity is $.1 per kwh, then to go on a 100 km daily trip would take 21 kwh of batteries of grid or 60 kwh of compressed air.
Therefore to the price of the battery would be $4200-8400 ( I will use $6300) while the compressed air container would cost $960.
So each day you could go 100 km which would cost $2.10 with the battery or $6 with the compressed air tank.

Comparing the results--we have $6300 + $2.1 x 1200= $8820 > $960 + $6 x 1200=$8160.

Beyond this you'd have to get a second lithium battery so the comparison wouldn't work.

In the future I would guess that the cost of renewable electricity will be lower than fossil fuels once we go down that route. The air car though limited seems very practical.

Wouldn't having an option to add a bit of fuel, if available, give the vehicle much more range? A ready source of expansion heat would appear to be very advantageous. At least air conditioning for the vehicle would be free!

These are good questions, though what additional costs would such additions impart?

The cycle life/pricing you used isn't exactly up to date. LFPs FOB from China retail for ~$600/kWh and are rated at 3000 cycles to 70% dod. A123's stuff, while *likely being less than twice the cost, lasts three times longer that the cheaper LFPs from CHina according to their data sheets. The Th!nk's pack is stated to run ~$500/kWh and go over 3,000 cycles in mass production. Also were you assuming large scale air compressor efficiency, because I've never heard of home units operating at ~35+% efficiency?

*This is the cost per kWh on ebay of power tool battery packs, so odds are after taking away the markup from ebay, the ebay seller, and the cost of DeWalt to make the integrated battery pack w/ A123's cells, we're probably significantly south of ~$1200/kWh.

thanks for the numbers majorian.

$73 for a 165 litre tank rated to 300 bar seems a bit optimistic. you don't get much for $73 these days, especially something that would have to be carefully QA checked and pressure tested before it leaves the factory.

i can see that a tank could work out cheaper per kWh of storage than batteries, but perhaps not quite as cheap as you suggest?

I used this 2004 presentation (see the table on page 4) which is for a 10000 psi (~700 bar) 165 liter fiberwound tank costing $73. This tank is good for 15000 cycles(days). Notice I am using this cost for a 300 bar tank for compressed air. DOE is projecting costs much, much lower than $73 for mass produced tanks in 2010, 2015.
So I think I've really been excessively cautious in my estimate of $73.

The battery was based on lithium ion or nickel metal hydride technology costs. I probably should have reduced the energy density because the life cycle of batteries is reduced by the number of 'deep draw'/heavy service cycles and using batteries for transport is a 'deep draw' usage IMO.

I also think that the heat of compression used to cool the multistage air compressor could be recovered as domestic hot water or space heating thus raising the overall 'efficiency' or utility.

I like the out of the box thinking and the fact they recognize the importance of morphology and actual normal primary usage in vehicle design.

The non-steering front wheel concept is similar to hydrostatic drives on swathers. However, swathers are slow moving vehicles. If one of these hubmotors seized at speed, the car would end up ass over teakettle in no time flat. It would need an emergency freewheel mechanism.

The design could be improved by going to an inline two-seat format. Narrower vehicle with tilting -- think of a large Piaggio MP3 -- would reduce frontal area and improve aerodynamics.

Remember circa 1903 two brothers called Write with no money and no corporate sponsorship started the first designs of the Airbus 380.

The day the world gets serious and bans the Gas Guzzlers, a new generation of Wright brothers will find a solution.

As long as we stay with our historical ideas we will never get there.


An interesting design, though it seems GM had the answer decades ago; it shouldn't be too hard to recreate these or use them as inspiration for new lines. The trouble is, they would have to recreate themselves, and that might not be possible, even with the $25 billion in loans.

Been there, done that, got the tee shirt!
Looks like the UK took the earlier concepts, applied the production engineering tools of the day and hey presto
The Reliant Robin

Actually they are very likely to 'lean' into (or out of) corners also.

The driver can return the car onto its wheels unaided from inside the car by rocking it and pushing down on the road through the window

Not for the faint-hearted.

Can a person self power the T2 with methane?

How many days of bicycle compression pumping does it take to power the T2 up for a ten click jaunt?

Hi Phil,

Useful article as it points out the main problem. While the attempts to find a solution using the old paradigms can be forgiven (- at least they're trying!), the situation cannot be resolved using the thinking that caused the problem in the first place. This is possibly a good example of (and the need for) a Kuhnian Paradigm Shift, where there is a shift from the old paradigm and the thinking that goes with it to a totally new one. It also reinforces Kuhn's "‘incommensurability thesis’, that theories from differing periods suffer from certain deep kinds of failure of comparability." (From here as well)

In other words, dinosaurs (the big and heavy paradigm) cannot change but can only die out, evolving eventually into something else - like birds (- the small and light paradigm). Big and heavy thinking is generally incommensurate with small and light.

Also, I take it there was no mention of overall efficiency and EROEI - again concepts that don't fit with the big-heavy-plenty-of-fuel- old paradigm. So, doomed to the fossil record?

Perhaps a new concept needs to be developed that measures energy invested with respect to gain in utility/social benefit and overall efficiency of all resources used - something along the lines of an Ecological Footprint perhaps.