Lightweight electromobile with ROHACELL body crosses Australia almost exclusively on wind energy

The Wind Explorer pilot vehicle is a two-seated electromobile that weighs just 200 kg (441 lbs) and with a range of 400 kilometers (249 miles) per battery charge. The bodywork consists mainly of a carbon fiber composite with ROHACELL structural foam from Evonik Industries. Its lithium-ion batteries, based on yet another Evonik technology, are charged by a mobile wind turbine or in the conventional way from the power grid.

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The Wind Explorer weighs just 80 kilograms (176 lbs) without the batteries and wind turbine. Click to enlarge.

German extreme sports enthusiasts Dirk Gion and Stefan Simmerer made a 17-day journey across Australia in late January of 2011 in this electric vehicle powered by wind and lithium-ion batteries. The wind turbine and a 6-meter-high telescopic bamboo mast are set up within 30 minutes. The Wind Explorer was propelled partly by parasail-style kites in addition to wind power, achieving in this way a maximum speed of about 80 kilometers per hour (50 mph) on the approximately 4,900-kilometer (3,045-mile) stretch from Albany on the Indian Ocean to Sydney. Only in exceptional cases did the drivers resort to electricity from conventional sources.

When they built the electromobile, the duo opted for a sandwich structure of carbon-fiber fabric

and a structural core of Evonik’s ROHACELL polymethacrylimide (PMI) rigid foam. This fiber plastic composite has been used for many years in aircraft, helicopters, trains, and ships, and is also rapidly gaining ground in automotive construction: ROHACELL structures allow weight savings of 60% or more over conventional steel parts.

The high rigidity of the foam also improves the inherent rigidity of the components. With high thermal resistance of the material, three-dimensional ROHACELL cores are easily produced by thermoforming with short cycle times.

ROHACELL is CFC-free and, in compliance with Directive 2000/53/EC on end-of-life vehicles, heavy-metal-free, and is listed in the IMDS.


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