New Rail Car Runs on Air-Electric Perpetual Drive (Feb, 1934)

It may be impossible, but, damn is it cool looking!

New Rail Car Runs on Air-Electric Perpetual Drive

FROM coast to coast by rail in 24 hours, traveling literally on air—that is what W. E. Boyette of Atlanta, Georgia, claims for his invention, a railroad engine that runs almost entirely on air.

Air for fuel—speeds of up to 125 miles an hour on rails—low transportation costs-—these are possibilities conjured by Boyette’s air electric car. After being started by batteries, the car needs only air to keep it running—a close approach to perpetual motion.

Inventor Boyette claims his invention is quite simple, even though it is contrary to all principles of engineering.

Large tanks on the sides of the car are pumped with compressed air by a starting air compressor which is driven by an auxiliary electric motor and 4800 pound storage battery set. Compressed air then operates the air engine connected to the driving wheels, bringing the car up to speed.

As the car moves, a large air compressor directly connected to the front wheels pumps air back into the tanks. An electric generator connected to the farthest rear pair of wheels is continually charging the batteries. Thus the movement of the car refills the air tanks and partly recharges the batteries.

With the engine pulling two passenger coaches over a 250 mile rail run, it is said that about $2.50 worth of electricity for fully charging the batteries at the end of the run will be the only fuel expense.

  1. js says: February 7, 20082:03 am

    From a physical perspective, this would work: it would just bleed pressure from the tank to account for friction and aerodynamic losses – incidentally, at a speed of 125 mph (~200 km/h), the latter is dominant. Rolling friction would be minimal, the train being just two cars. Any energy lost in acceleration would be recouped (minus losses) in subsequent braking; any energy spent going uphill would be gained (minus losses) going downhill. So, if the batteries started out fully charged, the $2.50 worth of electricity is the amount of energy spent countering the friction and aerodynamic losses to keep the train moving.

    Many similar proposals have appeared since, the basic idea being to store energy during deceleration for use during acceleration. The greatest obstacles are generation losses and storage capacity. Many modern rail transit systems have an arrangement where most braking is done by using the motors as generators (regenerative braking) and feeding the resulting electricity back into the system for other trains to use, eliminating the need for onboard storage.

  2. Myles says: February 7, 20087:55 am

    Are we looking at a drawing, or an actual working prototype? If this is a prototype I wonder how someone with such good engineering skills would still believe in perpetual motion – or is he a fraud looking to sucker investors?

    js – you are describing a system that sounds similar to a hybrid car for recovering some energy. That is not what the article above is describing. Friction and aerodynamic losses are what require most of the energy to move a vehicle.

  3. Firebrand38 says: February 7, 20082:03 pm

    This was a perpetual motion scam. Instead of air compressors think in terms of wheels turning generators charging batteries that power motors turning drive wheels.

    Also, check out page 13 of this 1987 report from Stanford University http://www.slac.stanfor…

    The author takes a swipe at popular science magazines of the time saying that the editors didn’t know the first law of thermodynamics.

    But I can’t be too critical…after all we live in an age of suckers buying “Q-ray” bracelets and tuning in to John Edward.

  4. Randy says: February 7, 20086:30 pm

    Given the compounded inefficiencies of the generator, compressor, air engine and electric motor, the vehicle would go farther just letting the batteries run the motor-driven compressor until they were exhausted and not trying to run the wheel-driven generator or compressor.

  5. Justin says: February 7, 20087:41 pm

    This design can be simplified significantly by just connecting a driveshaft between adjacent sets of wheels and removing all the generator/motor and compressor/air-engine bits.

    Actually, my idea is so simple, I could make a push cart with the two axles connected with a drive shaft, give it a shove, and see it go on forever!

    Yeah, or not.

  6. oscar valencia says: February 9, 200812:31 pm

    with the present technology today,it will work. the only problems are scientific minds who oppose to it.

  7. Firebrand38 says: February 10, 20085:41 am


    What color is the sky on your world?

    And just what specific “present technology” will make this possible?

  8. Latente says: February 10, 20086:34 am

    In this blog we obey the laws of thermodynamics

  9. Tom says: February 10, 20081:29 pm

    Oscar – do you really think that a scientist, seeing the possibility of making such a machine, would say `I can’t build it, I must maintain the way the world is viewed and suppress this invention’. No, he or she would be happily collecting a Nobel prize.

    This is not to mention the enthusiastic amateur. You seem to know a lot about modern technology, perhaps you could enlighten us.

  10. Oliver says: March 30, 20084:48 pm

    The thing that i query most about this rather bizarre machine, possibly the detail that actually kept the device in motion that no-one has mentioned, is: Why does it require a radiator?
    While I don’t want to enter into the arguments that seem to be part and parcel of any blog, I think it is fair to point out that scientific development traditionally involves an element of resistance to ideas that have not derived from a linear process of logical thought. There is, for reference, a remarkably long list of latterly vindicated scientific ‘martyrs’ to bear this argument out. Whatever the comedic flaws of the above concept, do not be too ready to pour vitriol.
    Furthermore, reference to the Parry People Mover (currently in production) bears dividends. A remarkably efficient vehicle (although with the above mentioned regenerative braking.)

  11. marty krona says: November 24, 20083:24 am

    A Car Runs on Air-Electric Perpetual Drive,sounds even more possible.Semi-trucks would have the greatest advantage.Hey look!Long haul trucks already have air breaks,and air ride suspensions.Will fill tires with air!The ocean is moved by air(wind).Sounds like big oil business,brainwashed us all,,ith hot rod mania!Muscle cars.Think about air tools,hot air ballons,and etc.WOW!I FEEL LIKE SUCH A FOOL.

  12. marty krona says: December 19, 20086:05 am

    So what happend to boyette’s air electric car.That really looks like it can work.I know engine or can run from compression.Anyways thanks for the posting-Marty

  13. Dave says: June 23, 20098:45 am

    Well I have read Tesla’s Biography and he had more Nay-sayers than u guys and guess what??? You use his AC invention
    everytime u hit the light switch!! U must remember the time period this article was published in. I do seem to
    remember air powered cars being used frequently in Sweden, I believe, just recently…………… C’mon, u have to have an
    open mind, put it together, if it works great! quit trying to analyze everything…..give us a break!!

  14. Firebrand38 says: June 23, 200911:05 am

    Hey! Guess what???? The fact that I use alternating current means precisely nothing when it comes to this nonsense powered vehicle.

    Quit trying to analyze everything? That’s some really sound advice.

    Oh, yeah the time that this was written the first law of thermodynamics had been expressed by Rudolf Celsius 84 years previously.

  15. AnthonyA says: January 13, 20117:36 am

    Indeed, compressed air powered locomotives were frequently used in mining and in yard switching, especially before the invention of the Diesel engine. However, the locomotive had just compressed air tanks and a motor which ran from them. The ‘refuelling’ with compressed air occurred at either end of the line, from a stationary air compressor and storage tanks that ran from the electricity supplied by the power company or other sources.

  16. DrewE says: January 13, 20119:46 am

    Oliver — Assuming the contraption is indeed designed as described, the “radiator” probably is an cooler for the newly-compressed air, or perhaps an intercooler for a multistage compressor. It may also be a warmer for air coming from the compressed air tanks.

    The ideal gas law generally causes all sorts of thermal inefficiencies for compressed air vehicles; much of the energy used in compressing the air is lost as heat.

    You could also well be correct in suggesting that the vehicle does not, in fact, operate as the article suggests; perhaps this prototype simply has an ordinary engine-driven compressor.

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