World, meet EDWARD, electric-powered diwheel

World, Meet EDWARD. This electric-powered diwheel is a project created by engineering students at the School of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Adelaide in Australia.


by Aaron Turpen

The designers say

Many diwheels in the past have been human powered or powered by IC engines. This one is purely electric. It has additional functionality lacking in other models, including inbuilt dynamic lateral stability and slosh control to prevent "gerbiling" or tumbling in aggressive braking or acceleration maneuvers. The diwheel also incorporates a unique feature that allows the rider to drive the vehicle when "upside down" - keeping the vehicle in its unstable state is achieved using a combined swingup and inversion controller.



The EDWARD Project was begun in 2009 as an honours project for undergraduates in the Adelaide engineering program. It completed in December 2010 with most of the design mechanicals being done in 2009 and the electronics and control systems done in 2010.

EDWARD stands for Electric Diwheel With Active Rotation Damping. The idea behind the project was to make the diwheel not only stable at all times, but also capable of some real acrobatic feats. The final version of EDWARD is able to drive in all directions perfectly level, spin horizontally in place, "rock" without moving, "gerbil" (spin vertically in place), and even be driven with the driver upside down.

Part of the inherent design in EDWARD is its relatively high center of gravity, which in a production version for mass consumption would not be the case. This was meant to challenge students in their control systems designs. Because of this high center of gravity, the diwheel is capable only of light gradients (around 12 degrees or less) and has a long brake time compared to a bicycle or car of similar mass. All of this would change with a lower CoG.

EDWARD can get up to 40km/hr in speed and has a battery life of about an hour under aggressive conditions. It's batteries are lead acid.

Students demonstrating the capabilities of the machine can be seen in this video:

Although EDWARD will never make it to production and was meant only as a class project, it is still a very cool machine. Fans of Star Wars may remember the diwheels featured in the films (called the Hailfire Droid), which were the inspiration for the project that became EDWARD.

The Adelaide students and EDWARD were featured on Australia's Top Gear television program and showed the machine at two MechExpo events and other shows in Australia.

The design challenges are interesting and as a commercial product, it's obvious that a small market of people would be interested in these as a toy and something to get around the neighborhood with. The unique driving capabilities and acrobatics that can be safely enjoyed with the diwheel design are obvious.

This author sees these as a potential kit car that many people would clamor to purchase and put together in their own garages.

Can you imagine anything more fun that building and driving an EDWARD?

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