Drag site icon to your taskbar to pin site. Learn More

Green Speed Air Motorcycle

Monday, January 4, 2010
The present Green Speed design calls for an odd looking 1:1 gear ratio  but with plans to race for a land speed record the team is contemplating gearing it even more aggressively for top speed.
An industrial design course at Australia's Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology yeilded the Green Speed motorcycle concept, an air-powered two-wheeler meant to vie for a land speed record and Lake Gairdner.
Looking to the future of transportation, there are many interesting alternatives to the traditional internal combustion engine. Engines powered by compressed air are one of the more obscure ideas. But how fast could a compressed air motorcycle go? It’s a question one Australian college classroom worked on this past summer, designing the Green Speed Air motorcycle.

Edwin Yi Yuan, a 23-year-old student at RMIT (Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology), worked on the group project in an industrial design course. Lecturer Simon Curlis came up with the project idea a year after his own motorcycle accident. Wanting to get back on two wheels, his goal was to set a land speed record at Lake Gairdner, a dry lake bed in Southern Australia. He wanted his new racebike to be environmentally friendly, but eschew the typical eco-power routes of bio-fuel or electric. Instead, the team decided to harness an air engine.
Green Speed Air Motorcycle
A rotary air engine is the planned powerplant for the Green Speed design, with two high-pressure air tanks storing the "gas" that powers the concept bike.
A rotary air engine from Melbourne engineer Angelo Di Pietro will power the Green Speed.

With a stripped down Suzuki GP100 as a literal framework for the idea, the team got cracking. A total of 16 students worked on the project, during a 12-week span. Edwin, who grew up in Shanghai, China, before attending school in Australia, focused on the bodywork design. While the team was unable to get a finished working motorcycle completed within the course timeframe, the design work is complete with a rough prototype.

A rotary air engine from Melbourne engineer Angelo Di Pietro will power the Green Speed. The engine gets its power from the compressed air stored in a pair of high-pressure tanks, located under the spine of the frame. The interior of the air engine is made up of a series of chambers and as the compressed air is forced in the chamber it creates rotary power. The engine’s torque transfers to the rear wheel via a single gear, a sprocket mounted directly to the engine, and final chain drive.

The present design calls for an odd-looking 1:1 gear ratio, but with plans to race for a land speed record the team is contemplating gearing it even more aggressively for top speed. The goal, according to Edwin, is for a LSR record that crests 100 mph. Still in development, the engine is promised to rev up to 3000 rpm, and the team calculates a potential top speed of 112 mph.

Designed as a land speed racer, there’s no headlight, brake light or indicator lights to be found. Because of the air engine, there’s no gearbox or exhaust system either. Yi Yuan estimates the minimalist design to weigh somewhere in the 220-lb range, with hopes that the heavy steel frame and air tanks, might get swapped out for lighter materials on the finished model. The team looked to source carbon fiber tanks, but found the cost prohibitive for a modest college design experiment.

Designed as land speed racer  theres no headlight  brake light or indicator lights to be found. Yi Yuan and Curlis are still game for a run at Lake Gairdner  but admit a serious LSR attempt would need to be built around a newer frame.
Designed with the pure intent of setting a land speed record, the Green Speed lacks any proper
lighting. It does, however, have three video cameras mounted, with the intention of filming its
planned 100-plus mph LSR attempts.
So, according to Yi Yuan, what are the pros and cons of a potential air-powered motorcycle?

“The advantages is obvious, the compressed air is total zero emission. The thing from the exhaust is the same that we breathe.”

Yi Yuan points out air-powered systems are less toxic than the batteries powering electric designs. They’re also potentially lighter than electric designs, which must carry heavy batteries. In an air-powered design, the air tanks act as a battery, storing energy in the form of pressure. The high-pressure air tanks, however, are also a potential problem to the design too.

“Disadvantages is that the air is compressed, which makes it potentially explosive in accident,” Edwin acknowledges. “We all know that motorcyclists have more accident more often.”

Air power also doesn’t yield the same amount of energy per volume. All that stored energy from a single tank of gasoline, millions of years in the making, is still a bargain alternative power sources just can’t beat.

Edwin Yi Yuan is a 23-year-old student at RMIT  Royal Melbourne Institute of Tech   who worked on the group Green Speed project in an industrial design course.
Lecturer Simon Curlis came up the Green Speed project  with the goal to set a land speed record at Lake Gairdner  a dry lake bed in Southern Australia.
Edwin Yi Yuan (above) and Simon Curlis
(below) continue work on the Green Speed.
“It [air power] has lower mileage than petrol. I mean to cover the same distance, you need a lot more volume of compressed air than petrol. That means we’re either going to have to go to the gas station more often, or have a huge heavy tank on the bike which makes it very heavy. Even a dangerously high pressure air tank still cannot compare to petrol for power to volume figure.”

Yet the problems don’t hinder Yi Yuan’s belief in the potential of air-powered transportation:

“The future, I think, has lots of opportunity. We can ride our air bikes, charge up the compressed air tanks at home or office with a little air compressor. It should take less time then battery charging. Better yet, there might be possibility to have an air compressor on the bike, so we can just plug it on the wall. Or, we can go to a gas station, but instead of filling up with petrol, just use that compressed air that we use to pump up our flat tires to charge up our air tanks. Of course, in the future, that compressed air might not be free anymore. So your gas station does not sell “gas” as petrol, but “gas” as compressed air.”

As for the future of the Green Speed design, most of the students involved have since drifted away from the project. For his part Yi Yuan and Curlis are still game for a run at Lake Gairdner, but admit a serious LSR attempt would need to be built around a newer frame. Not to mention some money to push the design forward. Still, the student is enthusiastic about the Green Speed as a fun project, post graduation.

“If it works on Lake Gairdner in South Australia, we would also love to come to Bonneville to set the speed record of an air powered bike,” said Yi Yuan. “Next step? I even want to set up a factory to produce air motorcycles.”
Green Speed Air Motorcycle Photos
View Gallery
View Gallery
View Gallery
View Gallery
View Slideshow
Other Street Bike First Looks
2016 Honda PCX150   NM4 First Look
Honda released details on its 2016 PCX150 scooter and the futuristic 2016 NM4 motorcycle.
Camping Bike  Honda Debuts Bulldog Concept
Honda debuted its Bulldog Concept at the Osaka Motorcycle Show, a curious concept model designed 'to go beyond the boundaries of conventional leisure motorcycles, to actively enjoy outdoor life.'
Aprilia Unveils Three 2016 Models at Daytona
Aprilia unveiled three pre-production motorcycles during Daytona Bike Week 2015 - the RSV4 RF, Tuono V4 1100 Factory and Caponord 1200 Rally, all slated for the 2016 model year.

Login or sign up to comment.

webwarrior   July 31, 2012 03:36 PM
I would love to help these kids with investment funds and labour or computer aided design. As for the questions regarding compression and distance. it is irrelevant. Get the technology to work better(I know it does - just look at Air powered tools). Weight is everything, as I am working with another guy in South Australia regarding Air Powered Vehicles and Generators. Please forward my email details to the students.
Newton chavan -it is a good project but ....  June 26, 2010 06:17 AM
Though it looks very intresting and advantegious but u have to specify more things about it
eg.how to recharge the comp, in one refile how long it will run,
and what is the approximate life of a bike
Vinod -Go Green Get Ready to Ride BIke in Air  June 24, 2010 10:55 PM
Hey this is good news for us going green say no for fuel fly in air, Ilike it I know it is still in development, I am so excited when can we see this in market. Also I have doubts: 1. What if the Air Compressor Tanker fails and blows out how thick was tanker. 2. When bike is running cant it refill itself on the way or giving a option when air getting down button press air fills to tank. 3. lighting power generates on wheels like bicycles have earlier. same can be provide to electric bikes why not they make it possible. Think of the guys you are GEMS.
anotherguy -ITS AN LSR  May 17, 2010 05:44 PM
ok so as the title indicates its an attempt at a land speed record. no one said he lets make a bike that runs on compressed air and then lets feed it to the masses as a new form of transportation. the only thing this post is about is a new LSR using a "green" power source thats all. im not an LSR affictionato or anything but i dont think there has been many LSRs set using compressed air so he may very well set and hold one for a short period.
mike -aok  January 30, 2010 12:00 PM
mercedes benz also made a compressed auto concept great idea if you own a rotary hi-preshure compresser
Hasan -No refuel  January 17, 2010 01:10 AM
hey, i think this thing need no refuel, because the gas it used is not changed, so no need to waste the gas, so maybe the gas that used can be transfered again into the tank -- sorry for bad english
Untario(untario@gmail.com) -Compress air can use Gun powder?  January 11, 2010 05:15 PM
To compress air can use the electrical pump,How about gun Powder.Small amount of gun powder can produce alot of compress air? Thanks
Jack -School projects? Really?  January 10, 2010 10:03 PM
So what other school projects do you have that are considered 'news'?
JSven -Energy density versus efficiency  January 5, 2010 09:27 PM
Larry, you are not well informed.It doesn't all comes down to energy density.

What matters is not the highest energy density, but rather the best way to not waste energy.

Yes,gasoline does have a high energy density, but you seem to forget that gasoline engine are very inefficient at converting this energy into useful work. A high energy density is not that great if we cannot use this energy efficiently.

From Wikipedia:

"Modern gasoline engines have an average efficiency of about 20% to 30% when used to power a car. In other words, of the total heat energy of gasoline, 70 to 80% is ejected (as heat from the exhaust) as mechanical sound energy or consumed by the motor (friction, air turbulence, heat through the cylinder walls or cylinder head, and work used to turn engine equipment and appliances such as water and oil pumps and electrical generator), and only about 25% of energy moves the vehicle."

For comparison, a modern electric motor can easily have an efficiency of 80-90 percent.
larry -compressed air bike  January 5, 2010 03:09 PM
You got to be kidding me. The energy required to compress the air is significant but the energy contained in a compressed air tank is much to small to be practical. It all comes down to energy density which is why petroleum is king. one gallon of gasoline contains about 33 times the energy in a one kWh storage battery (the new Chevy Volt will have a 16 kWh battery and will weigh 400 pounds and cost thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars), compressed air is much less. Feature this, a recent study by two Swiss scientists demonstrated that to fill a hydrogen tank to 10,000 psi (700 bar)would take about 18 percent of the total energy eventually put into the tank. It's like putting five gallons of gas in your car and the energy required to put that five gallons in the tank is one gallon of gasoline. Compressed air motorcycles are an exercise in futility and wasting energy and resources is ridiculous.
John -Why not?  January 5, 2010 01:09 PM
Air power is nothing new. Lately it has just been used more widely as materials have improved and conventional fuels have become more expensive. It is too bad that the college is not further funding the project for the sake of publicity alone.
mcguire -Alt.Energy  January 5, 2010 02:11 AM
I suspect the transmission of a powersource will soon outweigh the motor unit in design considerations. Fluid drive with a infinite choice of gear range is a option and the scooter industry has taken automatic to a new level these days. I can't believe no one has developed a street oriented 4 wheel design similar to the atv. Sorta like a ATV/Motard mix...could be awsome.
Tim B -Cool Concept  January 5, 2010 12:30 AM
It's a cool concept, but unless we all drive tractor trailer tankers full of air I don't see how we could get any range from air. But more power to him for trying something other than the boring poster child of "green", the electric motor.

John -Air  January 4, 2010 11:05 PM
I doubt that thing could get you a mile
AirHead -What about an old bicycle pump  January 4, 2010 01:12 PM
How about zero emissions from an old hand or foot pump. Maybe a bit of sweat involved. Comparatively, Gas is still pretty cheap.
Nick -It's an interesting science project, but nothing more  January 4, 2010 06:49 AM
Good luck to him with the record and all, but let's be realistic here. How many miles can you get out of a tank full of compressed air?

Also, you need to spend some other kind of energy to compress the air, so emissions aren't elimintated, just transferred from the bike to the air compressor.