A lightweight car called the Wind Explorer recently traveled a whopping 3,000 miles across Australia with the assistance of wind power at a cost of only $15.
The wind powered vehicle was built by Evonik as a demonstration of its battery and lightweight materials technologies. The vehicle is currently on display at the company’s headquarters.
The vehicle was powered by three sources of energy: one was a portable wind turbine; the second was a kite which helped to pull the vehicle 10–15% of the time (when the wind blue in the right direction); and the third was the electricity grid (however, it only used $15 worth of electricity from the grid).
“They were able to supplement their lithium-ion battery power with kite power about 10 to 15 percent of the time,” Bill Bunting, a senior scientist with Evonik Industries in New Jersey, told NBC News.
The wind turbine weighs 70 pounds, the batteries 200 pounds, and the carbon fiber body also weighs 200 pounds.
Two average-sized people were driving the car and managing the kite, so that brings the total weight up to about 1,000 pounds.
Automakers are racing to decrease the weight of their vehicles so that they can meet new fuel efficiency standards that require an average of 54.5 miles per gallon (MPG) by 2025. A general rule of thumb is a 1-MPG gain in fuel efficiency for every 100 pounds of weight lost.
This vehicle is a good demonstration of how great a role weight reduction can play in the effort to improve automobile fuel efficiency. Weight reduction can also improve safety by reducing braking distances.