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Hypothesis: Wind Turbines in Automobiles

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Note to Mods: Not sure if this is the appropriate forum, since this isn't news of any sort. If you deem it necessary, please feel free to move it to a more appropriate location.

Wind is the enemy of vehicle propulsion. Vehicle manufacturers have spent millions, if not billions of dollars trying to minimize the coefficient of drag in their automobiles. It is said that as much as 60% of the power required to cruise at highway speeds is simply to overcome wind resistance. An automobile's coefficient of drag drastically affects fuel economy.

One way auto manufacturers have used to reduce the amount of fuel required to overcome wind resistance is assistance from one or more electric motors powered by batteries. But batteries have to get their power from somewhere, too. Usually the gasoline engine itself provides some charge to a hybrid vehicle's batteries. Regenerative batteries can also use the energy expended to slow a vehicles to increase battery charge. Plug-in hybrids connect to the power grid to recharge the vehicles batteries.

In the non-automotive energy generation realm, however, air is an asset. Using Wind Turbines, or windmills to generate energy from wind is seen as a clean way to extract electricity literally out of thin air. And since air is not consumed in the process, the energy is theoretically limitless. The problem with wind energy is that windmills are only useful as a consistent source of energy in areas where there is a constant wind.

So, what I posit is this: Use miniaturized wind turbines placed strategically on hybrid vehicles to generate electricity that can assist in recharging batteries. Obviously, these wouldn't provide much of a charge in stop-and-go traffic, but at any kind of speed, I would think you could use a car's greatest enemy of forward motion to provide some extra juice used to overcome it's cD. Something like this (on a smaller scale, obviously) could be hidden under the lip of a front bumper or behind a grille, parhaps even replacing the fake "grill" inserts used to visually break up a large front bumper with functional air intakes, like this:


Or maybe a traditional fan-style turbine could be placed either in front of a radiator or behind its own intake shroud, like the air intake seen here:


On Autobloggreen, it was mentioned that GM's designers and engineers are "pulling out all the stops to reduce parasitic losses". As long as it's not cost-prohibitive, why not use some of the wind they're trying to cheat to give a little extra juice to the propulsion system?



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all it would do is increase drag to the point of negating any improvements in performance they might provide.


But it would be interesting to see if it could supplement re-charging using ducting that would already allow airflow. Maybe a balance could be struck.

Interesting idea.

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all it would do is increase drag to the point of negating any improvements in performance they might provide.

Take a box fan and swing it through the air. Now, cover the face up with cardboard and do the same thing.

I don't see how a solid surface pushing through the air (such as a bumper) would be more aerodynamic than one that allows air to pass through it.

Admittedly, I'm no expert. It could be the turbulence caused by the fan would disrupt airflow enough to more than compensate for the little bit longer a vehicle would run on (or be assisted by) the electric engine. That's why I'm throwing this out there.

Thanks for the input - appreciate it.


Edited by RBB

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efficiencies of generators of this size are not high. and the cost to put one in for use in upto ~85 mph would either require active parts or some advanced materials...not be cheap.

propulsion efficiencies increase as size decreases(generally)

electrical generation efficiencies increase as size increases(generally)

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