Being full of hot air usually means you lack substance. Fortunately for the makers of the O2 Pursuit motorcycle, being full of compressed air means something completely different. Powered by nothing by a scuba tank full of compressed air, this motorcycle achieve speeds usually reserved for combustion engines without the emissions.
While electric motorcycles may be all the rage, they’re not necessarily the most cutting edge alternative fuel bikes out there. Electric vehicles still require expensive, energy-intensive batteries and electricity that’s usually generated by fossil fuels. Advocates say compressed air engines could be a truly emissions-free option, with much cheaper fuel, but there are still some major hurdles to overcome.
The O2 Pursuit was designed by Dean Benstead, a graduate of RMIT University, in Melbourne, Australia. True to DIY style, Benstead started with what he had and added only essential components to creating a working prototype. The Yamaha WR250R frame was fitted with a compressed-air engine, and a standard scuba diving tank, which substitutes nicely for the gas tank. Opened up all the way, the O2 Pursuit can travel over 60 miles on a single tank, and up to 87 mph.
At first glance, the compressed air bike seems to solve all of the frustrating problems of an electric motorcycle, i.e. a big, heavy battery to tote around and long recharging times. But if compressed air were such a simple solution, we’d already be driving air powered cars, so there must be something more to it.
The biggest barrier to compressed air-powered bikes or cars is that there’s insufficient infrastructure to support it (sound familiar?) and there still needs to be power available to compress the air in the first place. Still, the technology has promise, which is probably why the O2 Pursuit was recently shortlisted for a James Dyson Award.