TTU COE Engineers Design Compressed-Air Vehicle

Back in the late 1980s, J. David Rhoades saw a unique need, and started thinking about a way to fill it. He recognized that conventional bicycles and three-wheelers all had their drawbacks, and started thinking about a four-wheeled solution. Before long, he designed and marketed a four-wheeled bicycle called the Rhoades Car, and over the years developed 1-person, 2-person and 4-person variations. Over the years, more options were added, such as a cargo platform and more robust frame for industrial use, a windshield, luxurious padded seats and even a solar-powered electric motor. With models that include cargo areas, the Rhoades Car has turned out to be a boon for businesses and industries who want to “go green,” with several models in use at Oak Ridge National Laboratories and Universal Studios. Sadly, Rhoades passed away in 2009; since then, the company has been led by president and longtime friend Bill Pomakoy. At their Hendersonville headquarters, Rhoades Bike has established a fruitful relationship with Tennessee Tech College of Engineering , having consulted with 17 TTU grads in the past.

“Tennessee Tech’s engineering and design personnel have just been a lifeline for us as a small business,” notes Phyllis Shelton, vice president of marketing at Rhoades Bike. “Dr. Sundaram in particular has a keen instinct for what’s marketable, and not just theoretical design. He has a real business sense for these projects.”

Now, a team of four TTU COE students – Tyler Rash, Cody Gass, Scott Williams and Jay Hannan – have developed an air-powered vehicle for Rhoades Car. Their variant on the company’s Quadricycle uses a scuba diver’s air tank to power a motor from an air drill as an auxiliary power source for the vehicle. The team encountered some challenges in mounting the tank safely on the frame and regulating the air pressure to the motor, but the finished product is a vehicle that can travel 20 miles or so on a fullycharged tank.

“The development of the pneumatic Rhoades Car was a great experience, “ said Cody Gass. “With the constraint of a short time frame, we did not have time to really dial in a motor system and just used what was available, so we can see ways to improve on our design in the future. A huge thanks goes to Jeff Randolph and Chris Mills in this whole process; we have some great shop equipment here at Tech, and have the backing to go on and do some great projects. I had some great engineers in my group and am really satisfied with how we worked together and got the cycle finished in this short time frame.”