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ASME District F - Early Career Technical Conference Proceedings

ASME District F - Early Career Technical Conference, ASME District F ECTC 2013
November 2 3, 2013 - Birmingham, Alabama USA



Shaobiao Cai

Yongli Zhao

Georgia Southern University

Statesboro, GA, USA

St. Cloud State University, MN, U.S.A.

St. Cloud, MN, USA

Sustainable, clean, efficient energy has become a central
concern with growing interest among industries and academic
researchers. This paper presents the modeling and prototyping
of an air-powered automobile simulator for field study, using
clean pneumatic energy, a potential candidate for a new
generation of hybrid-vehicle technologies. The simulator was
designed to explore the applications of sustainable, alternative,
clean, efficient energy and to gain an in-depth understanding of
the engineering processes and methods of modeling such a
complex system. A power chain was designed to convert the
stored pneumatic energy into torque and deliver the power to a
driving wheel. A chassis was designed to meet the loading
conditions; it is made of recycled steel and aluminum. The
stability and effectiveness of the power transmission are
addressed in the prototype. It presents a great potential of new
technology development in the relevant areas of application.
The car became the primary transportation tool in the
United States soon after its introduction. While enjoying the
convenience of it, concerns were raised as well among public.
Air pollution due to emission and energy consumption were
among the major issues and became even more serious
concerns due to the ramping up of gas prices and global
warming. According to World Almanac 211 [1] and WRI171
[2], a traditional cars engine uses about 65 percent of the
energy from the fuel just to move all its parts such as the
pistons and cams, plus what is wasted generating excess heat.
The transmission uses 6 percent of the energy from the fuel, the
accessory load 2 percent, and idling losses come to about 11
percent, leaving only about 16 percent of the energy to actually
make the wheels turn. Saving energy and increasing energy
efficiency thus became very important. In addition to energy
efficiency, pollution became another major concern with regard
to automobiles. Experimental data show that a gallon of gas

ASME District F - ECTC 2013 Proceedings - Vol. 12

burned produces about 20 pounds of CO2. Relevant work in

engine development and automotive performance has been
studied by researchers such as [3, 4]. Hybrid vehicles using
electrical batteries and hydrogen or various types of fuel cells
have been widely studied [58]. The studies of applications
using solar power [9] and biodiesel fuel [10] are discussed to
some extent in the literature. The using of pneumatic air, one of
the most promising options to address energy efficiency
emissions, is of a great interest among many researchers.
Fundamental theories for analysis and modeling, such as
thermodynamics, flow mechanics, heat transfer, energy, and
energy efficiency can be found in literature [1113]. The
concepts of various pneumatic hybrid engine technologies are
proposed and studied based on those theories. For instance, the
vehicle may run on petrol but would use its reservoir of
compressed air to boost the engine's power through braking
energy generated compressed air [14]. Other researchers
modeled various types of Hybrid engines, such as the
simulation of a pneumatic hybrid motorcycle (which represent
the potential application of pneumatic energy to small scale
transportation system) [15], and the modeling and optimization
of two and four-stroke hybrid pneumatic engines [16]. A
significant fuel consumption reduction may be achieved
through the combination of engine downsizing, pneumatic
hybridization, as well as strategic operation [17]. These works
presented some very interesting and encouraging results on
hybrid pneumatic engine modeling.
It has been very encouraging that many global industrial
companies have adopted industrial ecology and sustainability
thinking as part of their practices [1821]. The use of an air
propulsive engine in a purely pneumatic powered car like
AirPod has been developed. Energy efficiency at about 39.3%
from tank to wheel was reported by MDI [22]. However,
skepticism exists among engineers and researchers. Short
running distance is still among the major challenges. The tankto-wheel energy efficiency is yet to be proven or further
improved with more robust field data.


The development of field models using pneumatic air with

the capability to address sustainable clean energy issues, energy
efficiency, and noise and vibration issues is highly in need. This
work presents the modeling, design, and prototype of a
pneumatic, air-powered automobile simulator for the field, an
important stage in new technology development to explore the
applications of sustainable clean energy and efficiency in
automobiles. It was designed to study the efficiency and the
method to increase running distance with integrated energy
regeneration functions (not done yet in the current work) using
such as gravitational potential. Pneumatic air is chosen as the
driven power source for the simulator to address the
environmentally friendly applications. The mechanisms
utilizing sustainable clean pneumatic energy, with the capability
of driving a total of a 300-lb. load, are discussed in detail. A
power chain was designed to convert the stored energy to
torque and deliver the power to the driving wheel. A chassis
was designed to meet the loading conditions. The system
consists of recycled steel and aluminum and other metals. The
stability and effectiveness of the power transmission were
addressed in the prototype. Various supporting mechanisms
were engineered. Preliminary field tests were conducted and the
effectiveness of the simulator verified.
The simulator is considered to carry a driver, thus a total of
a 300-lb load due to the weights used. The wheels are 20 inches
in diameter. The system is preferable to run at a steady speed of
10 mph with a capability for further expansion and
configuration. The specific component design concepts and
selections were determined by using the initial preferable
loading capacity. The project began with a collection of old
unused bicycle frames. These recycled metal frames were
carefully examined, dissected, selected, cut, and shaped into the
desirable size and shape for the project. Figure 1 shows
examples of the lab planning and fabrication.
The design parameters listed above were used to calculate
the torque needed to run the system. The torque further
determines the capacity of the air motor, the key part for
converting pneumatic energy to mechanical energy. The
configurations and technical specifications of the air motor
were used to specify the energy storage device and pressure
tank, which were needed to provide a range of steady airflow
and power. The steady airflow with desirable pressure is
achieved by using an air regulator with a high-calibration
pinpoint control mechanism. The compressed pneumatic air is
regulated down to the air motor. The motor, in turn, delivers
power through a gear-chain system to the driving wheel. These
devices, including the pressure air tank, regulator, air filter, air
motor, and gear-chain system, make up the power chain
mechanism of the air automobile simulator. A chassis was
designed to carry a rider, power chain system, wheels, and other
necessary accessories. Supporting mechanisms for the air tank,
the air motor, the air filter, and the lubrication system were
designed and fabricated. The power chain was installed and
secured using the supporting mechanisms. The manufacturing

ASME District F - ECTC 2013 Proceedings - Vol. 12

techniques are not the focus of this paper, the details of which
are largely available in the literature [23, 24], and thus are not
presented here. The design and modeling are presented in the
following sections.

Figure 1. Planning and fabrication of the air-powered

automobile simulator
The mechanism design was based on the mentioned
loading conditions and desirable speed. Four wheels were used;
however, only two wheels support the total load in driving. The
rear one (of the two supporting wheels) serves as the driving
wheel. The major considerations were to ensure better
manipulation and reduction of energy loss due to friction. The
other two wheels (on the side) of the four are used as training
wheels to maintain stability for safety purposes. These two
wheels wont touch the ground while the vehicle is moving. All
of the four wheels are the same size, 20 inches or 1.67 feet in
diameter. The two training wheels are mounted one inch
higher (from the ground) than the others. Thus, they do not
support the weight while driving. A gear-chain system is used
to reduce direct impact (a major factor known to cause damage
and instability to the motor) to the air motor so that a smooth
power transmission can be achieved.
Loading Condition
It is assumed that the weight of the driver (Wd) and the
simulator (Wa) will be 150 lbs., respectively. The total weight
(W) is distributed between the two wheels (because only the
central two wheels touch the ground while driving). The
reaction forces from the ground to the front wheel and the rear
wheel are Rf and Rr, respectively. The loading conditions are
shown in Figure 2.


Figure 2. Schematic of the loading conditions of the

The conditions of the force and moment balance of the
system at equilibrium give
F = Rr + Rf - W = 0


M = Rf (L1 +L2) - WL1 + FdLg = 0


where L1 and L2 are the distances from the line of action of the
weight W to the supporting points of the rear wheel and front
wheel, respectively. Here, L1 is 11 inches and L2 is 16 inches. Lg
is the vertical distance from the mass center of the system to the
ground. Because the air-drag force is relatively small at 10
mph, this element may be neglected in the preliminary
calculation. Based on the loading conditions, one can readily
calculate the reaction forces to the front wheel and the rear
wheel, which are Rf = 129 lb and Rr = 171 lb, respectively.
Motor Rotational Speed m (rpm) Determination
To determine the motor rotational speed, lets first consider
the simulator traveling at a linear velocity of V. To achieve the
velocity V, the shaft of the driving wheel needs to run at a
rotational speed of d, where the subscription d indicates the
driving wheel. The linear travel velocity and the rotational
speed d have a relationship as follows:
d = V/R


where R is the radius of the driving wheel. Because the

simulator is meant to run at a speed of 10 mph and all of the
wheels are the same size, 20 inches, the rotational speed d is
168 rpm. For the gear-chain system, the gear attached to the
driving wheel has eighteen teeth, and the gear attached to the
motor has forty-four teeth, the gear ratio (GR) is 2.44. The
rotational speed of the motor m thus can be determined with



For the application here, the rotational speed d is 69 rpm.

ASME District F - ECTC 2013 Proceedings - Vol. 12

Motor Torque and Horsepower Determination

For the system to work as expected, the motor torque needs
to be able to overcome the maximum friction torque while
rolling. To acquire the rolling friction force, a simple
experiment was conducted. A 25-lb. bike with the same size
tires was put on straight and level concrete ground with a 160lb. person on the bike. It is known that any slip can lead to a
significant increase in the coefficient of friction. It was pulled
as slowly and carefully as possible. It was found that it took a
force of six pounds to overcome the rolling resistance. Thus, a
rolling coefficient of friction k can be calculated. It was 0.03
based on the test. This result will be used as the preliminary
assumption when rolling. With k, the friction force fk can be
found as follows:

f k k N


where N is the total normal load, here, the same as the weight.
The frictional torque Tf can be determined as follows:

Tf f k r


For this application, the friction force is about 10 lbs., and

the friction torque is 100 lb./in. This indicates that the motor
needs to provide 100 lb./in. for the system to run at a constant
speed. With this information, the power needed can be

P T f m


For the simulator to move at 10 mph, the motor needs to be

at least 0.11 hp with an output rotational speed of 69 rpm.
However, this is the situation of rolling. To start the simulator,
higher power is needed because the static friction is higher than
the rolling one. The static coefficient of friction varies from 0.2
to 0.6 [25, 26, 27]. Based on these considerations, an air motor
with 0.75 hp capacity having a 20:1 gear reducer was chosen to
provide enough torque for practical operations and to allow
room for future expansion. It also allows for providing slightly
larger ranges of velocity and acceleration for field tests.
Energy Storage and Regulating Principles
The work-rate output is achieved using the airflow through
the motor as shown in Figure 3.
Consider the air flowing in from the inlet of the motor and
flowing out from the outlet. The work output rate through the
shaft is W . The governing equation for the control volume
(CV) (the area indicated by the dash line) is as follows [10]:



2 gz)V ndA Q W
t CV


where e is a specific heat term, is the air density, h is the

enthalpy of the air, p is the pressure, V is the airflow velocity, g
is the gravitational acceleration, z is the elevation from a given
reference, n indicates the surface normal of the cross section

area A the air passing through, Q is the net energy passing the
CV boundary through heat transfer, and indicates the time
rate of the relevant property.

pressure p2 at 1 atm. The simulator is meant to run steadily for

about fifteen minutes at 10 mph. To satisfy the design criteria
and the boundary conditions, equation (10) is used to estimate
the total energy needed. Two standard, carbon-fiber pressure
tanks with a total capacity of 46 standard cubic feet (SCF) and
a maximum pressure level of 2216 psi are used. A two-stage
regulating mechanism is used to provide a better steady flow.
The pressure is regulated down to 100 psi. This constant
pressure is then regulated down to a desirable pressure level
controlled by a pinpoint controller. Energy consumption and
analysis will be discussed in the later sections.
The mechanism design and engineering include component
design, fabrication, and assembly. These involve the power
chain, chassis, and core components and their supporting

Figure 3. Schematic of the control volume (CV) for airflow

energy analysis
In this model, it is assumed the airflow is steady. For
simplicity, the heat transfer across the boundary may be
neglected at this point. Because there are rigid guides at the
inlet and outlet of the motor, the air flowing in and out can be
considered perpendicular to the cross sections of the inlet and
outlet. The vertical elevation between the inlet and outlet is
only 4 inches; thus, the effect of gravitational potential energy
is negligible. Based on these assumptions, equation (8) is
reduced to the following:


p V2
) V ndA W

where u is the internal energy of the air. Equation (9) provides
an estimation of the available work output from the motor shaft.
Equation (9) is a dynamic equation. The total energy initially
stored in the pressure tank can be estimated using a static form
of this equation. To estimate it, we may consider the pressure
vessel is control volume, and initially, no air passes through the
boundary (V = 0, W = 0). The equation for the energy stored in
the pressure vessel can be written as follows:

Power Chain
The power chain is made up of two pressure tanks, two
regulators, an air filter and a lubrication system, an air motor, a
gear-chain system, and relevant adaptors and connectors. shows
The power chain arrangement is shown in Figure 4 below. The
compressed air from the air tank is regulated to provide reliable
air flow. The air flow is guided to pass through an air
filter/lubricator before input into the air motor for protection
purposes. The energy carried by the airflow is converted to
mechanical torque through the air motor. The output torque
from the motor is then transmitted through the gear-chain
system to the driving wheel of the simulator.

E (u ) d mh

where E is the total energy at the thermal dynamic state defined
by room temperature (T), pressure level (P), and volume ( );
m is the total mass of the air stored in the tank; and h is the
enthalpy of the air at room temperature and designated
pressure. For room temperature operations, T1 = T2, and inlet
location 1 has a pressure at p1. The outlet location 2 has a

ASME District F - ECTC 2013 Proceedings - Vol. 12

Figure 4. Power chain architecture

Chassis and Major Supporting Mechanisms
The chassis is made out of recycled aluminum and steel
bars. It consists of a center triangle frame with two additional
triangle frames (steel tubes with a wall thickness of 0.125 in.)
welded to each side to stabilize the system and provide the
necessary strength. The simulator has a total of four wheels and
the center rear wheel is the driving wheel. The major
considerations are to achieve better manipulation, stability and
safety, and a reduction of energy loss due to friction.


The mount made to hold the pressure tank is made up of a

square bar with a 45o chamfer on the bottom. Another smaller
square bar with a 45o chamfer is welded to the first bar to create
an L shape. The two thin pieces of steel metal are welded to
the larger square bar and bent around the tank to form two
adjustable metal bands. A short piece of angle steel is welded to
the end of each band. Lastly, a hole is drilled through each
piece of angle iron so that the bands can be adjusted and bolted
tightly around the pressure tank to ensure the stability and
reliability as shown in Figure 5.
The motor mount consists of a small piece of sheet metal
(76.2 104.3) welded to a piece of channel steel (C80 type).
The channel steel is welded to the chassis frame. Five holes are
drilled in the sheet metal. The center hole is for the motors
drive shaft, and the other four smaller holes around the
perimeter are for bolting the motor to the bracket. Their
function is to keep the motor in the proper position to satisfy
the alignment of the driving gear (attached to the motor) and
the gear attached to the driving wheel, as shown in Figure 6.
The completed air automobile simulator is presented in Figure
1 in the center.


The simulator was designed to use compressed air without
any other power sources (i.e., batteries). Currently, the air tank
is filled by an air compressor powered by a solar station
established on campus previously. This makes the system
sustainable and environmentally friendly. In addition, the power
chain system is designed to maximize the energy efficiency. A
multistage regulating system is integrated for accurate and easy
airflow control to achieve smooth field driving. An in-line
lubrication system is integrated to ensure durability and
Field-driving tests were conducted on a straight, level
concrete road. Firsthand preliminary data were obtained. The
performance indicators, average pick-up speed and
acceleration, for a 164 feet (or 50 m) distance tested by the
same driver are shown in Figure 7 (a) and (b). Figure 7 (a)
shows the average speed as a function of time. Average speed is
used since the measurements were done manually. It does not
sacrifice accuracy (since the system run at low speed), and it
gives clearer and more straightforward pictures of the system
performance. The average speed used here is defined as the
average speed achieved in a cumulative period from 0 to t. The
tests show that the simulator can pick up speed very quickly,
and all of the rides are smooth. It takes about ten seconds to
reach a target speed of 10 mph. Figure 7 (b) shows the
acceleration as a function of time for the field test. The
acceleration is larger at the beginning. It decreases with time
after reaching a certain speed level. The acceleration is reduced
to zero after about ten to eleven seconds. The simulator runs at
a constant speed of 10 mph when the acceleration is zero. The
transition from the start to the constant driving speed of 10 mph
is smooth, as one can observe from the figure. This is consistent
with the drivers experiences during the field tests.

Figure 5. Pressure tank supporting mechanism

Figure 7a. Average picking-up speed vs. time

Figure 6. Motor supporting mechanism

ASME District F - ECTC 2013 Proceedings - Vol. 12


its current stage. An energy regeneration mechanism using

gravity when running down a slope or hill has been designed
but is not installed yet. The systems on boarding data
acquisition system will also be designed and integrated into the
system as well in the near future. With both the regeneration
function and onboarding data colleting system, the firsthand
field data, such as vibration, noise, and environmental impact,
can be obtained. Those data will be expected to lead to further
insights of the relevant applications. Also, the prototype will
serve as an important stage in the process of exploring the
applications of sustainable, alternative, clean, and efficient
energy. These will also help to gain an in-depth understanding
of the engineering processes and methodologies of modeling
complex systems.

Figure 7b. Average picking-up speed vs. time

There are many factors that may affect the speed and
acceleration performance, such as the loading conditions,
operational pressure level, and the airflow rate regulated
(amount of air regulated in a certain time period). The
smoothness of all the rides is believed to be the result of the
well-designed mechanisms. For example, the speed is
controlled by regulating the airflow with a high caliper pinpoint
control mechanism. This pinpoint control mechanism leads to
an even airflow across the whole power chain. Because the
motor has a theoretical maximum rotational speed of 3000 rpm
with a gear reduction ratio of 20:1, the simulator has a
theoretical maximum linear speed of 22 mph. Due to safety
considerations, the limit was not tested.
The combination of pneumatic energy and other available
types of energy has a great potential to be a successful
candidate in new generation of hybrid technology applications.
This paper presents the design, modeling, and prototyping of an
automobile simulator powered purely by clean pneumatic air
with goals to investigate energy efficiency and running
distance. The mechanisms to utilize the sustainable clean
energy air to drive a 300 lb load to run at a steady speed of 10
mph for ten to fifteen minutes with a maximum up to 22 mph
were discussed. Engineering design theories and scientific
calculations were implemented in the modeling. These theories
were also used to guide the technological design and fabrication
work. A power chain was designed to convert the stored energy
into mechanical torque to deliver the power to the driving
wheel. The chassis was designed to meet the loading conditions
and was fabricated of recycled metals, such as steel and
aluminum. The stability and the effectiveness of power
transmission were addressed. Preliminary field tests were
In addition, the prototype provides a significant field
model to further investigate pneumatic air-related clean energy
technologies, energy efficiency, and environmental impact. It is
worthy to mention that the system is not a hybrid system at

ASME District F - ECTC 2013 Proceedings - Vol. 12

The project was funded by the PSU common campus
research fund. Greg Kurtz, an undergraduate student
contributed to the manufacturing of the work.
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