posted 6 years ago

New Liquid Air Fuel Could Power Cars

Centre For Low Carbon Futures Reveals Liquid Air Fuel

The Centre For Low Carbon Futures has revealed that liquid air could power cars in the future. In simple terms, it is created when excess energy from a renewable source such as a wind turbine is used to cool (say) 700-litres of air to -196C. This reduces its bulk to 1-litre which is then stored in an insulated vessel. When energy is required, it is heated to boiling point which forces it to expand back to its original proportion (in gas form). This expansion could power a wind turbine that might then produce electricity for the national grid. It could also fuel cars, ships, trains, lorries, motorbikes, etc. Liquid air is potentially invaluable as excess energy from renewable sources is not generally stored. In fact, it is often disposed of which is wasteful and expensive. Whereas this might not concern most electricity users now, it could be a significant issue in the future if the country becomes more dependant on renewable sources. After all, the wind does not blow all the time so we might need to store more power. Furthermore, liquid air is not a concept for the distant future - it is available now. As such, there has been a successful, small-scale, demonstration running in the United Kingdom for the past eighteen months.

Cars Powered By Liquid Air

If liquid air is to power a car the system has to meet certain criteria. Firstly, it must be small enough to be fitted to a standard-size vehicle and leave enough room for passengers and cargo. Furthermore, it needs to be light as too much weight is bad for fuel consumption and handling. It must also enable the vehicle to accelerate smoothly, and to a sensible speed at a sensible pace. Also, a full tank of liquid air must power the car for a reasonable mileage. Such a vehicle must also be supported by a nationwide refuelling system that pumps the air quickly and conveniently. After all poor mileage, limited charging points, and long charging times limit the practicality of today's alternative fuel cars. Cost is a factor too, as the average motorist cannot spend a small fortune on a vehicle. Plus, of course, liquid air must be safe - or at least no more dangerous than today's fuels both while the car is travelling and in the event of a crash.


I agree with Vernon Taylor comment. Unfortunately,all the best ideas are lost too oil industry monopolies in the wars for energy dominance.

What a remarkably well informed your respondent Vernon Taylor is. I would like to hear more from him perhaps in another forum.

The process of compressing and cooling air to liquefy it will not be very efficient but is one way of harvesting surplus or off-peak energy in a similar mind-set to that research into hydrogen production, storage, handling and use prompted by Harold Wilson. That research had just been completed when Margaret Thatcher gave it to America ensuring we would have to pay them to use our own technology. Poor efficiency isn't necessarily a handicap or a reason not to do it. Petrol engines waste almost 75% of the fuel poured into them and the National Grid has an appallingly low efficiency between fuel in and the energy available at the household 3-pin socket. Liquefied air can be used in a variety of ways but employing similar cylinder/piston technology to that used with old-fashioned steam engines would be the most convenient as it would require the least development and existing manufacturing capability could more easily be adapted to its production. A modest three cylinder radial engine would be able to give sports car performance to an average family saloon car without the complexities of clutch or alternative gear ratios. A small single cylinder engine should be able to provide economical city travel in a small or microcar, the average speed of vehicles in Greater London (while they are actually moving) being only 18mph, for instance. Another means of storing surplus or off-peak electricity apart from hydrogen or liquefied air production is in the form of energy in spinning flywheels. The technology could be used in town and city buses that are powered by a large and heavy flywheel that is run up to high speed at a powerhouse at the beginning of each journey.

Sounds like a complete airhead!

A quick look at the physics of this and costs involved will show this is a non starter. As a large capacity excess electricity storage then possibly. Definitely not a cool idea!

Perhaps the mechanism of choice could be that of an electric car. Such an energy source could be used in replacement of a small diesel or petrol engine used to recharge the batteries.

It is unrealistic given current technology for compressed liquid air to power cars. AS an addition to petrol in a hybrid set-up, it could given time perform in a similar way to Lithium Ion cells do currently