Riding on Air

What makes a motorcycle a Motorcycle?

Is it grease? Chains? Chrome? Well, if not those, then it must be gasoline and noise.

But then again, how about one with no gearbox, no exhaust system and no gas tank?

Design student Edwin Yi Yuan is one of the men behind what could be a work of inspirational genius, or maybe just a conceptual exercise doomed to the dustbin of history.

Yuan and his instructor at RMIT in Melbourne have the dream of setting a world land speed record in South Australia on what is  essentially a stripped-down Suzuki motorcycle driven by a rotary air engine and pushed along by high-pressure air tanks.

The motorcycle, known as the Green Speed Air Powered Motorcycle, is built around an old Suzuki GP100 from the 1970s which was then stripped down to a rolling chassis that left only the frame of the bike, the wheels and brakes.

The engine? It’s a rotary air engine developed by Angelo Di Pietro which generates up to 3,000 RPM. Compressed air stored in the bike’s on-board carbon fiber tanks.

Di Pietro qualified as Congegniatore Meccanico in Avellino and moved to Stuttgart, Germany to work on the Wankel rotary engine at the Mercedes Benz research laboratories 1969 and 1970. In 1971 he migrated to Australia where he established a construction engineering company. But it was from his early experience with Wankel rotary engines that Di Pietro became obsessed with developing a more efficient engine to replace traditional reciprocating internal combustion engine technology.

He’s been at it on and off for the last 30 years.

Back in 1999, Di Pietro says he made the major design breakthrough which would allow the realization of his invention and decided to fully focus on the development of his new motor concept.

But Yuan is hardly the only designer and motorcycle freak to think “air” when is comes to bikes.

The “Pursuit” – the work of  industrial designer Dean Benstead – also uses Di Pietro’s “air mill.”

Benstead’s “air hammer” is a motocross bike wrought from aluminum components which weighs in at a positively svelte  221 lbs.  This sucker is capable of somewhere around 62 mph top speed .

“The bike is running a standard scuba tank which runs air compressed up to 200 bar. With further developments, we would be looking at running a tank at 400 bar with increased capacity to also increase the range,” Benstead said.


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