Cory Little’s air-powered bike is turning heads (and pedals)

Cory Little’s air-powered bike is turning heads (and pedals)

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Cory Little and his pneumatic bike as seen on Hawthorne Boulevard last week.
(Photo: Ted Timmons)

If Cory Little has his way the power source of the future will be compressed air. And to prove it he’s developed an air-powered bicycle.

Little’s prototype has been spotted by several of our readers in the past few weeks. While he lives about an hour west of Portland, he likes to ride the bike around downtown and Hawthorne Boulevard to spread the word and get feedback. He’s spent years thinking up the concept and has been working on it in earnest for about a year now. “This is something I’ve been trying to do for a few years, but decided with the recent oil spills it was time to get busy,” Little said while tinkering in his garage in a YouTube video. That video, by the way, has been viewed over 24,000 times.

Little calls his engine the “Little Engine,” which we assume is reference to his name but also works as a nod to the famous children’s book, “The little engine that could.” (And if you watch the video the engine sounds like an old steam train.)

After many sketches Little built his first proof-of-concept last year. The engine itself (fabricated by Josh Powell) is relatively simple and low cost. It’s a rotary valve that turns two double-acting pistons. The air is stored in a large tank connected to the engine via plastic hoses.

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(Photo: Ted Timmons)




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(Photo: John Beaston)
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Little gives one of these patches to everyone who contributes to his GoFundMe campaign.
(Photo: Ted Timmons)

More than just a product developer, Little is trying to change the world and hopes his invention will wean the world off more toxic power sources. “My engine does not need toxic batteries or fossil fuel, and it is more cost effective than any other motor in that category,” he shared with us via email this morning. In a YouTube comment last year he told a viewer, “I am trying to save the world from being mined out for batteries. I regret to inform you that there is not enough material available to convert our transportation infrastructure over to battery powered. I could go all day on the benefits of compressed air over toxic batteries.”

When not out testing the bike and showing it to curious onlookers, Little is working on building an exchangeable high-pressure tank and designing a pneumatic clutch that will allow for “regenerative braking abilities.” Initial versions of the system used only a 130 psi tank which limits the engines power. Little is currently working on a system with a 4500 psi tank. He also says the next version of the engine will have a lighter, carbon fiber air tank that’s more integrated into the bike’s saddle.

If you’re interested in Little’s project, he’ll gladly share the design with you. He wants to inspire other people to build air-powered machines and everything he’s doing is open-source. You can learn more and contact Little through his website, Facebook page, or GoFundMe campaign page.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

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