Saturday, March 28, 2009

New world speed record

Talk about hi-tech! A British engineer has just broken the world speed record for a wind-powered vehicle. The BBC reports:

Richard Jenkins reached 126.1mph (202.9km/h) in his Greenbird car on the dry plains of Ivanpah Lake in Nevada.

Mr Jenkins told the BBC that it had taken him 10 years of "hard work" to break the record and that, on the day, "things couldn't have been better".

American Bob Schumacher set the previous record of 116 mph in 1999, driving his Iron Duck vehicle.

"It's great, it's one of those things that you spend so long trying to do and when it actually happens, it's almost too easy," Mr Jenkins told the BBC.

The Greenbird is a carbon fibre composite vehicle that uses wind (and nothing else) for power. The only metalwork used is for the wing bearings and the wheel unit.

The designers describe it as a "very high performance sailboat" but one that uses a solid wing, rather than a sail, to generate movement.

Mr Jenkins, from Lymington, spent 10 years designing the vehicle, with Greenbird the fifth vehicle he has built to try to break the record.

Due to the shape of the craft, especially at such high speeds, the wings also provide lift; a useful trait for an aircraft, but very hazardous for a car. To compensate for this, the designers have added small wings to "stick" the car to the ground, in the same way Formula 1 cars do.

"Greenbird weighs 600kg [1,323 pounds] when it's standing still," said Mr Jenkins. "But at speed, the effect of the wings make her weigh just over a tonne [a metric tonne is 2,204 pounds]."

"Now that we've broken the record, I'm going back on to the ice craft. There's still some debate as to whether travelling on ice or land will be faster," he said.

There's more at the link, and the Daily Mail has another article with photographs.

The thought of a wind-powered vehicle doing 126 mph is mind-boggling! I'll be interested to see whether it can go faster on ice. Congratulations to all concerned.



reflectoscope said...

The beauty of speed x ride that looks like it came from a Star Wars movie = win.


PeterT said...

FYI, the ice boat record is currently 143 mph, set in 1938.


Anonymous said...

I don't understand--wouldn't one need a wind speed equal to or higher to the top speed of the vehicle?


Anonymous said...

No, I sail faster than the wind many times in my sailboat.

The key here is that there is two kinds of winds, "true wind" and "apparent wind". "True wind" is the wind you feel when you are standing still on the ground/water. "Apparent wind" is what you feel when you are in motion, it is a combination of true wind and the breeze you feel just from the motion.

Keeping this simple, if I'm in a sail car, and there is a 15mph true wind blowing and then I sail the car to 125 mph I would have an apparent wind of 140mph.

This is a complex subject and there are lots of variables involved. Serious sailors make up and use a polar chart to calculate the effect of wind at different direction and speed to trim their sails to best effect. Every sail and boat is different, which is why one have to make up their own polar chart.