Wind Power Carries Green Car Across Australia

How far could wind power take a car? Pretty much as far as you want to go, apparently. In what they’re calling a demonstration of wind power’s efficiency and flexibility, two Germans just drove more than 3,000 miles across Australia in a wind-powered car.

For this remarkable 18-day journey, written up on Fast Company, Dirk Gion and Stefan Simmerer relied on wind in a couple of different ways. They toted a mobile turbine capable of putting out up to 1,000 watts of power, which they would use overnight to charge an 8-kilowatt-hour capacity lithium-ion battery. When the crosswinds were just right, they also unfurled kites that could pull along their lightweight, carbon-fiber Wind Explorer.

wind powered trip across Australia, Wind Explorer

image via Wind Explorer

Now, to be completely forthcoming here we should reveal that the Wind Explorer did get some help from the grid during its travels. As the adventurers noted on their website, 1,300 miles were powered by the grid, mostly during “technical adjustments and fine-tuning of vehicle components,” but also during daunting weather conditions – they tangled with the remnants of Cyclone Yasi – that made using the turbine impossible. But because of the efficiency of the Wind Explorer, that didn’t add up to a whole lot of grid power used – just 42 kilowatt hours, about equal to what it takes to wash and dry a dozen loads of laundry, the team noted.

The rest of the miles were all wind-powered, including about 1,400 miles using wind-generated electricity and 260 miles using kites.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.