Man has used wind power to travel for centuries, but it is traditionally used on the sea. However, two Germans have decided to harness this natural occurrence to complete an epic road-trip across Australia. Television host Dirk Gion and engineer Stefan Simmerer recently completed a 5,000 km (3,107 mile) journey in their aptly titled The Wind Explorer, a lightweight electric vehicle powered by electricity-generating wind turbines and kites.
The 18-day road trip gave way to three world records for the Germans. First, it was the first time a continent had been crossed by a wind-powered vehicle; secondly it was the longest overall distance covered exclusively by a wind-powered land vehicle; and finally they set the record for the longest distance covered by such a vehicle in 36 hours. Overall, the duo completed the journey on less than $15 of electricity.
What is unique about The Wind Explorer is that the prototype electric vehicle has multiple ways of being charged. The vehicle’s eight kWh lithium-ion battery pack could be recharged overnight using a portable wind 20 foot turbine or through the grid when there was no wind. The vehicle could also take advantage of strong wind with the use of kites. In areas such as the Nullarbor Plain, Gion and Simmerer, kites could be deployed to propel the vehicle. However, because the kites worked like parasails, this meant that full-control wasn’t always easy.
The Wind Explorer weights just 200 kg (441 lbs) and is made primarily of ROHACELL sandwich carbon fiber over an aluminum frame, running on a sports bicycle tires so as to reduce rolling resistance. The duo was able to find support for their venture from Essen-based Evonik Industries AG, who provided the materials for The Wind Explorer’s lightweight bodywork and lithium-ion batteries.
The trip that saw The Wind Explorer travel through the states of Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales, was not without its mishaps. The team punctured a lot of tires and blew two motors before it arrived in Sydney on February 14.
For a taste of the action, watch a video of the Wind Explorer in action above.