Wind-speed racer

Richard Jenkins stand in front of the Greenbird near Lake Lefroy, Australia.

Fossil fuels are going the way of the dinosaurs, says ecoentrepreneur Dale Vince. The future of fuel, he believes, is wind power. To prove his point, Mr. Vince will pilot a thin “land yacht” across an Australian salt lake – and if all goes well he could break the land-speed record for a wind-powered vehicle.

He and Richard Jenkins, an engineer and fellow Briton, designed the “Greenbird” as a carbon-neutral craft capable of sailing four to six times faster than the wind that carries it. With the right breeze, the two hope to blow past 116 miles an hour and into the record books.

The Greenbird is a spindly thing. The pilot rides in a long, thin hull reminiscent of a fighter jet whose nose has been stretches to a needle point. Tall, blade-like sails – one vertical and one horizontal – spike out of the craft just behind the cockpit. The two sails are hard, like a plane’s wings, and harness the wind much like their airborne counsins. But instead of using gusts to lift up, it channels the wind to roll forward.

If successful in Australia, the wind-evangelists will set their sights on the ice speed record next. The team insists that wind power has practical uses for transportation as well. They plan to unveil a road-ready wind cruiser in December.

[Via BBC, with a video]

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