German extreme sports enthusiasts Dirk Gion and Stefan
Simmerer made a 17-day journey across Australia in late January powered by wind
and lithium-ion batteries.
The electric-powered two-seat car, developed in Germany,
weighs just 441 lb and has a range of 249 miles. The body of the Wind Explorer
made primarily of carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) composite that
surrounds a lightweight structural foam core called Rohacell
Its lithium-ion batteries are charged by a mobile wind turbine or-in
exceptional cases-in the conventional way from the power grid.
The wind turbine and a 6-meter-high telescopic bamboo mast can
be set up within 30 mins. In addition to wind power, the vehicle was propelled
partly by parasail-style kites. The kites pushed the Wind Explorer to a top
speed of 50 mph on the approximately 3,045-mile stretch from Albany on the
Indian Ocean to Sydney.
If trees came close to the edge of the road, Gion was able to
steer the kite directly above the car and Simmerer provided control through
The wind turbine carried on board produced enough energy for
the full range of the vehicle (249 miles). In comparison, that's enough
electricity to wash and dry two loads of laundry. The turbine charged the
batteries during rest stops.
Rohacell technology from Evonik is a polymethacrylimide
(PMI) rigid foam that is used in aircraft, helicopters, trains and ships, and
is gaining ground in automotive construction. It allows weight savings of 60
percent compared to standard steel parts.
"And every gram of weight saved reduces CO2
emissions in conventional fuel vehicles and increases the range of the electric
vehicles of the future," says Stefan Plass, who is responsible for Rohacell
business at Evonik, a chemicals and plastics producer based in Essen, Germany.