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A small car with huge potential: With the aid of wind power, solar cells, and a stunt kite, the extreme athletes Dirk Gion and Stefan Simmerer steer the Wind Explorer across the Australian continent.
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Exclusive report on a pioneering trip: The Wind Explorer ran up an electric bill of €10 on its 5,000-kilometer-long trip across Australia.
For over an hour, we've been passing one giant eucalyptus tree after the other. Even several men can barely encircle the trunk of this mighty tree. Protruding up to 90 meters into the clear night sky, the trees seem to be silent witnesses of an age long gone. Every few minutes, kangaroos cross the street. And flying past it all is the Wind Explorer. Like a futuristic ladybug, the car speeds across the asphalt, which is still warm, passing by the age-old trees and Australia's famous marsupials. Our destination lies straight ahead. Starting its journey in Albany, south of Perth, this lightweight electric car will traverse Australia, covering 5,000 kilometers from the Indian Ocean to Sydney on the Pacific coast.
What started as a pioneering trip on January 26 culminated in a huge success two and a half weeks later. "For us, it’s a dream come true," the two German extreme athletes Dirk Gion and Stefan Simmerer explain. The two pilots actually set new records on the journey. It's the first time that a vehicle powered almost exclusively by wind power and lithium-ion batteries has crossed the Australian continent. In the process, they drove the longest stretch ever to be covered using nothing other than wind power—493.5 kilometers from Eucla to Ceduna. And they managed to do all this with unbeatable resource-efficiency. In fact, they almost achieved carbon neutrality.
The Wind Explorer is operated by lithium-ion batteries that are recharged—whenever the wind conditions allow it—by a mobile wind turbine. Only in exceptional cases was it necessary to use electricity that came from conventional sources. As a result, the Wind Explorer, which weighs only 200 kilograms, was able to cover 5,000 kilometers while running up an electricity bill of just €10.
The project was made possible thanks to various German business partners. For example, Evonik Industries provided the lightweight bodyshell and the powerful lithium-ion battery. With an energy capacity of eight kilowatt-hours, the battery pack enables the Wind Explorer to drive some 400 kilometers at demanding temperatures as high as 60 degrees Celsius in the sun. Dr. Klaus Engel, CEO of Evonik, extended his congratulations to the team: "This is an amazing achievement by Dirk Gion and Stefan Simmerer. They've shown what you can do with German high-tech and a pioneering spirit."
The Wind Explorer has one particularly special feature: When the battery is empty, the pilots can recharge it using a mobile wind turbine or a conventional grid, depending on the wind conditions. In addition to wind power, the Wind Explorer can be powered by a stunt kite. For German industry, pioneering projects like this offer an excellent opportunity to test their own technologies and gain a competitive edge in terms of know-how. The automotive sector, which is increasingly focusing on hybrid and electric vehicles, is a particularly competitive field. That's why new lightweight materials such as ROHACELL®, which was used in the Wind Explorer, and intelligent tire solutions that reduce rolling resistance are proving to be very popular. But most of all, the race to realize e-mobility will be determined by the nature of battery power.