The Ford Global Challenge - A Green Car That Runs On Air?  

Posted by Big Gav

Phil Hart has a brief post up at TOD ANZ on a competition being run by Ford to create a green equivalent of the Model-T - The Ford Global Challenge - A Green Car That Runs On Air?

The challenge set by Ford Global Technologies is to design a Model-T for the 21st Century - an inexpensive, innovative and sustainable car. Deakin University is the only Australian university and one of only five worldwide invited to participate in the Challenge, part of the celebrations for the 100th anniversary of the fabled Model T; the car that changed the 20th Century.

Deakin University's 'under wraps' design for the Ford Global Challenge left for Detroit on 29th August carried by Deakin's Tim de Souza (Chief Design Engineer) and Stuart Hanafin (Portfolio Coordinator). Deakin's project is code-named T2 ('TSquared').
Forget petrol, forget electric... how about air?: Hanafin and de Souza believe their model, which has an engine powered by the release of compressed air, fits the bill.

"Fitting the compressed air technologies into cars of today which are quite heavy and large is infeasible," de Souza told 2GB's Jason Morrison. "Whereas the concept we've come up with is a really small, lightweight vehicle that can make use of this type of technology."

Although the idea of a compressed air engine suggests it wouldn't last long without needing a 're-fill', de Souza insists his model would have real staying power.

"One of the conditions [of the competition] is that it had to have a 200 kilometre range. So we've engineered it to make sure we have that range," he said. "It's a slightly tweaked system where we re-heat the air... which gives it a bit of a boost. If you just used plain compressed air you'd probably get 60 to 70 kilometres."

There were announcements late last year that IT MDI-Energy was to setup manufacturing facilities for air-powered cars in Australia. You can read more from TOD about that in The Air Car - A Breath Of Fresh Air Or A Waste Of Breath? and Q & A With Louis Arnoux of IT-MDI.

We hope to bring you the results of the Ford Global Challenge soon..


Aside from not having much range, it seems to me, these cars will be no faster or safer than the cars already available. If Ford was interested in bringing our transportation system into the 21st century rather than maintaining the same paradigm that existed when Henry Ford built his first car, they would be automating the system as well. If I had that amount of money to give away, I would be having the contestants designing and building a scale model of an automated system. Such a system would be faster, safer, greener, more efficient, more convenient, and cheaper than todays road/rail system. for more information and discussion about it see the national personal transit blog at

It's plenty of range (200 kM/120 miles) for ~80% of American 'trips'.

Faster is an issue?

Safety is a design issue. Small can be safe. Air bags and crash avoidance radar don't weigh much.

Make it inexpensive (which will be a lot easier to do without expensive batteries) and people will buy one for most of their daily driving. They'll keep the old ICE for the occasional long trip or rent a car for the Thanksgiving trip to granny's house.

Something like this would greatly reduce the use of petroleum for personal transportation.

BTW, seems that there is an Australian rotary air engine that's said to be more efficient than the piston engine being used by Tata.

(Don't forget that Tata has a compressed air car under development.)

I wrote a couple of posts about the MDI / Tata air car last year - see here for more:

The Australian rotary air engine is by Angelo Di Pietro - it is discussed briefly in the same posts.

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