Wind-powered car targets land speed record in Australia

Using nothing but the Australian desert breeze, a high-tech carbon land yacht is preparing to exceed 202km/h.

One of the world’s best-funded and high-tech design teams is eyeing a challenge to the wind-powered land speed record later this year – likely in the South Australian or Western Australian desert.

Emirates Team New Zealand – famous for its sailing achievements in the prestigious America’s Cup – has begun development of a high-tech ‘land yacht’ powered by natural air currents.

The unusual three-wheeled car will be made primarily from carbon fibre, wrapped around a reinforced frame. An approximately eight-metre-tall articulated rigid sail will provide propulsion courtesy of the desert breeze.

Australian Glenn Ashby – born and raised in the Victorian town of Bendigo – has been selected to sit behind the wheel of the new Emirates Team New Zealand vehicle, and will be responsible for guiding it across the flats with a steering column attached directly to the single front wheel.

At present, the wind-powered land speed record stands at 202.9km/h – set in 2009 by Richard Jenkins onboard his ‘Greenbird’ in the USA (shown in the lead image at the top of this story). You can watch a video of that vehicle’s run by clicking here.

While a final location is yet to be locked in for the upcoming run, Drive understands it will likely take place on the salt flats of Lake Gairdner in South Australia or Lake Lefroy in Western Australia.

“It is a challenge that is outside the usual so it takes a lot of creative thinking and different approaches to design problems – it keeps the designers fresh and engaged,” a spokesperson for Team New Zealand told Drive.

“It is a very technical process of designing and building a wind powered car, and one that Emirates Team New Zealand [ETNZ] is using a lot of the same people and tools that they use for the America’s Cup technology and innovation.

“Like any record there are a lot of challenges associated … Design is obviously the biggest a big one, and really focusing in on the small detail of all aspects to make sure you have every aspect spot on.

“For ETNZ the big challenge obviously is around the tyre aspect of it all … tyres on a flat salt surface going over 200km/h is a whole lot different to foils in the water at 50 knots, but also beyond the design aspects, obviously the weather and state of the surface will have a significant part to play … So really you need the stars to align a bit to be able to beat a record like this.”

It’s unclear how much funding has been allocated to achieve the record, however a number of engineers and mechanics appear to be working on the project. The final attempt will be monitored and verified by the North America Land Speed Association.

Last year Drive reported the rocket-powered Aussie Invader 5R car will attempt the outright land speed record – which currently stands at 1227km/h – sometime during the next two years. You can read that story in full by clicking here.

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