Off-Road Quad Uses… A Pneumatic Drive?


Now here’s a really cool engineering degree project — a team of students from a university in Vienna have made a pneumatically driven motor — and fitted it into a quad! (Translated)

The team consists of [Simon Friesacher], [Simon Schedl], [Christoph Sieber] and [Manuel Streith] who all happen to be in the same class as [Maximilian] and [Sebastian] the duo who brought us the VoLumen display, and [Max's] Ripper CNC!

For their main project, the goal was to create an alternative and innovative motor — one that runs off of compressed air, using firefighter’s air tanks. Once they had that figured out, they decided to have some fun with it and put together the Air Quad. It only has a range of a few kilometers, and doesn’t perform quite as well its original gasoline counterpart, but we have to admit, it’s a very slick proof of concept!

Stick around after the break to see a promotional demo of the Air Quad in action!

Now how hard would it be to turn this into a steam-powered, steam-punk quad? What kind of humidity are SMC pneumatic cylinders designed to withstand…


  1. Zane says:

    Driven by the least efficient means of locomotion ever devised…. Compressed Air!

    • Dax says:

      Now now, with a proper heat exchanger to make the expansion isothermal, it can be reasonably efficient.

    • SomeDutchGuy says:

      Efficiency of CAES (compressed air energy storage) is comparable to batteries. And it all depends where you get that energy. You can start compressors when your local battery bank is charged (from solar, wind, whatever).

      What’s more efficient?
      – Compressing air to store it’s energy.
      – Powering a big fat resistor to lose energy.

      CAES has it’s uses. Think about trains in mines, releasing clean air is not a problem. Toxic smoke is.

  2. macona says:

    This concept needs to die. Air power has its uses, transportation is not one of them.

  3. bkubicek says:

    thats not an university, but a technical high school by the way.

  4. wha says:

    And how much does a EV battery replacement core cost….
    $3k to $8k from a China vendor at best.

    Compressed air vehicles are used in Mining facilities every day.
    Although inefficient, if they are 50% as good as a battery unit the value is the same over 10 years.

  5. Pedram says:

    100% useless.

  6. Max Mali says:

    guys… this doesnt need to be usefull… its an awesome concept demonstration and the students did a really great job!

  7. Shakipu says:

    I have compressed air in my tummy, when I ride bike it sometimes helps me to get faster.

  8. Sven says:

    Is it an engineering school or a school for media and advertising?

    All three projects mentioned are somewhat underdesigned and all the information about them is in the style of big company advertisement videos.

  9. Greg says:

    Is there any data how efficient this quad actually is?
    What is the autonomy of the quad?
    Are there any numbers anywhere?

  10. Liam Jackson says:

    Amazing hack, i dont understand the comments about efficiency or usefullness. Some of the most well recieved hacks on here are not useful or the most efficient way of doing things.
    Thats what differentiates a hack from actual, boring, product development.

  11. the gambler says:

    with those chambers that quad is able to drive all of 7 ft before needing a refill.

  12. Fast Fart says:

    Faster than my grannys wheelchair

  13. strider_mt2k says:

    The video is well produced, and I like the concept a lot.
    It was more of a “popular mechanics” type presentation than a “scientific american” one, but still pretty cool.

  14. cb88 says:

    Around here NC, USA we almost universally refer to them as 4 Wheelers. Never heard it called a quad… sometimes an ATV.

    • henry says:

      In Australia they’re called Quad bikes, appears to be the same in the UK. Turns out, the world isn’t just the United States.

      • DainBramage1991 says:

        True, but it is interesting to compare how language is different even among people who speak the same language.

        For instance, concerning cars: Hood (US) = Bonnet (UK). Hood (UK) = Roof (US).

        Also, here in the northeast US, we call them both quads and 4-wheelers, but never quad bikes.

      • barry99705 says:

        “henry says:
        May 3, 2014 at 7:41 am
        In Australia they’re called Quad bikes, appears to be the same in the UK. Turns out, the world isn’t just the United States.”

        Not yet anyway.


    • barry99705 says:

      In Alaska we called them quads, and 4 wheelers. Though we call snowmobiles “snowmachines” so that’s kinda funky in itself. Was confused the first time I heard it when we moved up there from Georgia. Was thinking “why the hell do you need snow making equipment up here?”!

  15. Thinkerer says:

    Wow, such haters:

    – It’s a tech school project, part of the HTL Rennwig graduation requirements (I think) which means the development process is more important than a perfect final results (note that they apparently have the thing wired to a smartphone app etc.).

    – They had fun doing it.

    – It actually works, even if it’s not thermodynamically perfect.

    – Go to any random page on HAD and you can find a lot of things less well done, less well developed and less perfect.

    TLDR They built something interesting, they had fun and they learned something in the process. Isn’t that what this is all supposed to be about?

  16. merlin says:

    Not useful? The thing is movine under its own power.
    Not practical/efficient? Who the fuck cares, it’s hack a day. Since when does the stuff here need to be?

  17. Pusalieth says:

    I just want to point out that the best of the best pressure energy containment devices have the same energy density of lead-acid batteries. So although using this technology as an application for the long-term storage of energy maybe fruitless, this could replace lead-acid batteries as a safe, and renewable tech. Think you wouldn’t have to replace your car battery, and would operate better at fluctuating temperatures, hmmm.

    • AKA the A says:

      Already being used for decades, most Russian armored vehicles have the option to use compressed air start ;-)

      As for using it in a car – don’t think so, because
      a) modern cars need electricity for quite a few crucial engine components to start
      b) when there’s an traffic accident, one of the first things firefighters try to do is disconnect the battery, not sure what they would do if you had a 20+ MPa pressure container in the car :P

  18. Velli says:
  19. 8complex says:

    Why would any German team be using SMC instead of Festo?

    And they’re not even using rotary actuators. It’s a bit like they’re trying to emulate a standard piston motor design with linear actuators. At least they can get a power stroke both directions, though, giving them basically 6 power strokes per revolution.

  20. static says:

    Like vehicles powered by electric motors, vehicles powered by air motors will shift the area of pollution. They may or may not find an application areas choking from ICE exhaust emissions. Not with vehicles traveling up to 85 MPH on the Interstate with the AC set to nut sack shrinking cold With adequate storage facilities air motors can take advantage of off peak electrical rates much more so than vehicles that use batteries for energy storage. In the long run it’s going to be the technologies that work best with renewable sources of energy are what are going to serve mankind the best

  21. P1NkY says:

    10 points for Griffindor!

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