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Wind energy vehicle powers onto our screens

A member of Team Bristol in their wind powered car

A member of Team Bristol in their wind powered car David Drury

Press release issued: 1 November 2010

The trials and tribulations of the Bristol University team that took part in the international Aeolus Wind Powered Car Race will be broadcast on BBC One’s Inside Out West tonight [Monday, November 1].

Bristol University’s wind turbine powered vehicle became the first ever electrically powered entry to cross the finish line when it took part in the international Aeolus Wind Powered Car Race.

The trials and tribulations of the Bristol team during the competition and the thoughts of Dr David Drury and the team of students who worked on the project will be broadcast on BBC One’s Inside Out West tonight [Monday, November 1].

This year marked the University’s inaugural entry into the competition and it was the only UK team.  Students and staff from the University’s Faculty of Engineering built the novel car as part of the ‘Aeolus’ wind energy project.

The Bristol team found their main downfall during the competition was the wind speeds were too low to keep the Bristol vehicle moving.  The vehicles that made it over the line were using extremely low gear ratios and were stop-start for large periods of the race as the power drawn from the blades stalled them. 

To be more competitive the team updated their vehicle throttle management controller, which gave their driver a second or low gear.  The team also reduced the pitch angle of the blades that meant a lower power at higher wind speeds.

These changes reduced the team’s chances of winning but enabled them to be the first all-electric drive train based vehicle to run on the track despite previous attempts by other teams.

Dr David Drury, Lecturer in Electrical Engineering and one of the project leaders, said: “The Aeolus project has proved to be extremely rewarding for the students involved, giving them the opportunity to work alongside engineers from other disciplines and to gain helpful practical knowledge.

“The race provided us with some valuable experience and ideas about how we could be more competitive next year.”

James Baker, a 4th Year Electrical Engineering student who worked on Aeolus through a final year research project and a member of the race team, added: “It was great to see all our hard work on the project in action.  Working with Aeolus has enabled me to think outside my degree programme and given me some valuable practical skills.”

The University’s project started last year, when a multidisciplinary team of students and academics from across the Faculty of Engineering completed the preliminary design of the vehicle. A range of undergraduate research projects have since been used to optimise specific aspects of the vehicle’s design such as the turbines, electrical transmission system and chassis structure.

Approximately 20 undergraduate students from across the Faculty were involved in the project working under the guidance of four main academic leads and two technicians; Dr David Drury (Electrical Engineering), Mr Peter Bunniss (Aerospace Engineering), Professor Stuart Burgess (Mechanical Engineering) and Dr Askin Isikveren (Engineering Design).   Lee Winter and Clive Rendall, Faculty of Engineering technicians, were instrumental in ensuring the vehicle was finished in time for the race.

This year’s vehicle will be used as a platform for developing a more optimised entry in 2011 and it is planned that Aeolus will become a flagship project at Bristol for many years to come.  It has already sparked interest amongst the wider general public, with visits from local school students and exhibits at events such as the Bristol Festival of Nature.

The Aeolus Wind Powered Car Race was held on 24-26 September in Denmark], with the vehicles racing under a variety of conditions to determine which made the most efficient use of the wind.

The trials and tribulations of the Bristol Aeolus team will be shown on Inside Out West on BBC ONE in the West at 7.30 pm on Monday 1 November.  The programme can be viewed until Sunday 7 November on BBC iPlayer.

A diary of the 2010 University of Bristol Aelous Wind Powered Vehicle team’s journey and race is online at


Further information

Aeolus is a unique international competition for vehicles powered by wind turbines and is aimed at inspiring interest in wind energy both amongst engineers and the wider general public.

The project was undertaken in collaboration with the leading renewable energy consultancy GL Garrad Hassan and it is one of many new initiatives being promoted through the University’s BRITE Futures Institute (BRIstol Technologies for the Environment), a multidisciplinary research hub dedicated to environmental systems and technologies. Complementary activities include the development of a new undergraduate teaching module in Wind & Marine Power, which is jointly taught by University academics and several leading renewable energy companies such as Garrad Hassan, Wind Prospect, Tidal Generation Ltd and RWE npower.

In addition to GL Garrad Hassan, the Bristol Port Company and Boeing UK also generously sponsored the project. The Aeolus team are also very grateful to Aviation Enterprises Ltd, who kindly allowed use of their airfield at Membury for vehicle testing.

Any companies that are interested in being a sponsor and supporting the future development of the project should contact Paul Harper, email for further information.

Please contact Joanne Fryer for further information.
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