Nine years ago on March 20th 1999, Bob Schumacher set the wind powered land-speed record in a boat called the Iron Duck, “sailing” at blistering pace of 116.7 mph. Now, since records are meant to be broken, two men are vying to beat that world record. Eco-entrepreneur Dale Vince of Ecotricity and engineer Richard Jenkins are setting up on the salt flats at Lake LeFroy in Western Australia, hoping to catch the right breeze and make history in their sleek wind-powered vehicle, the Greenbird.
We’ve seen fuel efficient vehicles that drive, fly, and jet across the sea, winning prizes and breaking records left and right. The Greenbird is the latest vehicle to take future-forward design to it’s limits. An amalgamation of aeronautical, sailing and Formula 1 technologies, the Greenbird represents an incredible synergy of engineering and design:
“With land sailing speed records, more wind does not always equal more speed – instead a technical solution is required, where lift is maximized, but more importantly, drag is minimized… The Greenbird is so efficient that it can travel at up to 3 to 5 times the true wind speed on land.”
The Greenbird utilizes a hard sail to propel itself instead of a soft sail like those found on boats. It acts a bit like an aircraft wing except instead of providing lift, the vertical sail pushes the ship forward while the horizontal wings keep the vehicle stabilized on the ground. It also features a carbon composite body which will allow it to handle the high speeds they are hoping to attain.
The team plans to take the knowledge they gain from these experiences and apply it to the real world, incorporating aspects from the design into the next generation of vehicles and micro turbines. According to Dale Vance:
“Fast forward 80 years and we are coming to the end of the age of fossil fuels and the dawn of the age of renewables – nothing less than a second industrial revolution. The Greenbird symbolizes this historical watershed better than anything else. Cars of the future won’t be running on fossil fuels, they will be running on Renewable sources of energy like the wind.”
If they can develop a realistic way to employ wind for everyday transportation, we may really have a renewable revolution on our hands. Here’s keeping our fingers crossed for future and for a new record.