Like its chunky cousin, the MDI Air Car, the sleek KU:RIN is also unlikely to see production. But that does not mean that we should not be impressed: This little pencil-shaped rocket (3.5m long, but just 0.8m wide) broke the speed record for compressed air-powered vehicles at the Japan Automobile Research Institute (JARI) test facility at Shirosato, Ibaraki Prefecture on September 9th. That’s right, 80.3 MPH running on compressed air alone.
The KU:RIN was designed and built by the 40 members of the “Dream Car Workshop” (yume no kobo) club at Toyota group company Toyota Industries Corporation that was started in December 2006. It is no coincidence that Toyota Industries Corp happens to be the biggest supplier of car air conditioner compressors in the world – to the tune of 20 million every year. So these guys know something about compressed air.
To power the KU:RIN, these developers reversed an air conditioning compressor so that instead of using mechanical power to compress air, instead it generates mechanical energy from the expansion of the compressed air. The compressed air is not fuel as such, but it acts as energy storage fulfilling much the same role as a battery pack in an electric car.
The thing is, if you get range anxiety every time you think of buying an electric car, then you will really be chewing your finger nails down when you hear how far the KU:RIN can go between “charges” (what is the right word for an air-powered car?): Not 320KM. Not 32KM. Just 3.2 KM. So just enough to get up to that top speed and then…. run out of power.
The development team is submitting their result to Guinness World Records.
Trivia: The name KU:RIN is likely derived from the Japanese kanji for “air” (ku) and “wheel” (rin).
Watch a video of the KU:RIN in action in this (Japanese) NHK news report or below: