Jim Letourneau's Blog

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Hot Air Powered Cars

I had a coffee this morning with a collegue who was bemoaning the lack of North American scientific literacy. A timely example just came to my attention via the Drudge Report. While the general public would like to see a reliable source of transportation powered by air or water, there are a few gory details that prevent these schemes from working. I'll skip the thermodynamics lecture for today but suffice it to say the cliches "there is no such thing as a free lunch" or "you can't get something for nothing" provide a hint as to where many of these transportation breakthroughs are headed. Here is a quick refresher courtesy of Wikipedia:

The first law of thermodynamics, an expression of the principle of consesrvation of energy, states that energy can be transformed (changed from one form to another), but it can neither be created nor destroyed.

The scrap heap of ventures that promise cheap or free energy is going to get much bigger as investment capital funnels towards replacing "dirty oil".   Fortunately this article does a great job of interviewing engineering experts who point out some of the brutal realities of this form of transportation - hopefully people read that part of the article.

Most car companies are racing to bring electric vehicles to the market. But one startup is skipping the high-tech electronics, making cars whose energy source is pulled literally out of thin air.

Zero Pollution Motors is trying to bring a car to U.S. roads by early 2011 that's powered by a combination of compressed air and a small conventional engine.

While savy investors may be skeptical, the Chief of Zero Pollution motors said You know, we've got a lot of people who wanted the car yesterday.

The scientific side of this venture appears questionable but the use of urgency (the "get one before they're gone") indicates a keen awareness of how to prey on human nature to sell cars.

More here - Company looks to bring air-powered cars to US