Ecotricity Greenbird - Wither goest thou, wind power?

The Greenbird applies principles of sailing, aviation, and Formula One racing. It has a vertical wing in place of a sail that pushes the Greenbird.

ecotricity greenbird

photo from Ecotricity

by Ross Bonander

Specs:

  • Type: Wind-powered vehicle
  • Manufacturer: Ecotricity and Richard Jenkins
  • Propulsion system:
  • Top Speed: 126.1 mph (202.9 km/h)
  • Fuel(s): Wind
  • Vehicle weight at rest: 600kg
  • Vehicle weight at speed: Over 2000kg
  • Vehicle composition: Carbon fiber composite (metalwork found in wing bearings and wheel units only)
  • Price: NA
  • Availability: NA

The manufacturer says

"The Greenbird will challenge all your preconceptions of wind powered travel - it's simply an amazing machine powered only by nature."

How the Greenbird works

It's very difficult to imagine a vehicle going as much as 5 times faster than the prevailing wind speed without using some sort of propulsion system, whether motor, engine, even a pair of pedals, but the Greenbird does just that. The design behind this speedy vehicle's capability is an astonishing testament to ingenuity.

The Greenbird applies principles of sailing, aviation, and Formula One racing. As wind flows over the top of an airplane wing, it reduces pressure on top and increases it underneath, giving an airplane the necessary lift. The Greenbird has a vertical wing where a sailboat has its sail, and wind flow over this 'wing' creates the same disparity in pressure as an airplane wing, resulting in the forward propulsion of the Greenbird.

As you might imagine, this force is enough to tip the Greenbird to one side, so the team added small horizontal 'wings' to the Greenbird's body similar to what you see on Formula One vehicles. These wings transfer that sideways force downward and effectively 'stick' the Greenbird to the ground.

dusty greenbird

How the Greenbird came to be

The Greenbird is the result of a partnership between a UK pioneer in the field of providing green electricity, Ecotricity (the first and largest green electric company in the UK), and 32 year-old Richard Jenkins, a graduate of Imperial College in mechanical engineering and founder of the Windjet Project.

Commercial applications of the Greenbird

The Greenbird is a craft created to break land speed records only, but surely there are some applications here that can be harnessed for transportation purposes, right? Not right away, it would seem. The only commercial application of the Greenbird's technology mentioned is applying it towards microgeneration turbines, specifically a vertical axis wind turbine being developed by Ecotricity called the "Urbine".

The Greenbird in the news

In 1999, Bob Schumacher drove his wind-powered Iron Duck into the land speed record books by reaching 116 mph. At the same time half a world away, Richard Jenkins was starting work on the vehicle that would top him, and a decade later, on March 16, 2009, Jenkins' Greenbird did just that, reaching a screaming 126.1mph (202.9km/h) on the dry plains of Nevada's Ivanpah Lake.

With one record in the books, another may soon fall: Next up for the team is breaking the ice speed record with a vehicle similar but not precisely like the Greenbird, although they do share the same name. The current ice world record they aim to beat is 84 mph.

Conclusions

The Greenbird's achievements are impressive, but we will be even more impressed if the vehicle can contribute something to mass transportation, because beyond solar power, nothing is cheaper than wind power. Harnessing it may not be cheap, but it's not like it requires billion-dollar undersea drilling or a massive refinement process.

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