Is An Air Powered Motorcycle A Viable Alternative? Ask Dean Benstead

Motorcycle design engineers are looking at all the viable technologies to make bikes more environmentally friendly, more sustainable and more useful in a world which may soon be without fossil fuels, but can a motorcycle be powered by a source other than gas or electricity?

Let’s face it, motorcycles powered by electricity are, at least at this point, running on filthy and potentially dangerous fuels – coal or plutonium. Hydrogen? Well, it costs more to produce it than it saves in the long haul.

What’s left? How about…air.

A motorcycle powered entirely by compressed air will be unveiled at the 2011 Sydney Motorcycle & Scooter Show, November 25-27 at the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre.

RMIT Industrial Design student Dean Benstead has designed and developed the ’02 Pursuit’, a working prototype of what is essentially a motocross bike that makes use of air as an alternate source power from a DiPietro air engine developed by Angelo DiPietro of Engineair Australia.

The initial focus of the project was on design and product development over performance engineering, but designer Benstead thinks he can envision a future which includes a marketable model based on his air-powered prototype.

Benstead says he believes that with further development there’s a place for compressed air in the future of the motorcycle, and that it would be an economical and environmentally friendly option.

“The concept evolved from research to sketches to computer modeling before the chassis and bodywork was built and fabrication at local manufacturer, Rinlatech Engineering, began,” Benstead said. “I wanted to explore the viability of compressed air as an alternative fuel, and my childhood experiences riding dirt bikes led me to design the motocross bike based around the Engineair engine. I’ve worked closely with project partners including Engineair, Yamaha Australia, who donated the running gear from a WR250F to power the bike, as well as various design staff members like Simon Curlis and Automotive designer Marcus Hotblack from RMIT.

“The stationary test runs we’ve run have been very positive – the bike can hit speeds in excess of 62 mph in its current build, and with more development, we can see the range of the bike doubling or tripling,” Benstead said. “The next prototype would involve a total re-style, different material choices over the current steel tube chassis, such as aluminum or even a futuristic printed titanium, reducing the weight comparable to a heavy-duty mountain bike.”

The O2 Pursuit will be unveiled on November 25 during the Two Wheels exhibit for the duration of the three-day show at the Sydney Motorcycle & Scooter Show in Australia.

Will it ever be a winner with consumers? That remains to be seen, but it will certainly be up against stiff competition from electric and hydrogen powered options…

If you had the earth-friendly constitution, refinement and pocketbook to buy a Brammo electric bike, your insurance needs can get complicated. We’re here to help you find the right insurance for your brand new electric or hydrogen-powered motorcyle…

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