Wind Powered Car

Mark asks…

What appliances or electronics can I take apart to find a good DC motor to use in wind power experiments?

I am wondering if I could pick up some piece of trash appliance or electronic gadget at a garage sale and pull a good DC motor out of it to use in experimental wind power projects. The motor would need to contain magnets, and generate a current at relatively low RPM. Do VCR’s or blenders or tape decks or vacuums or shavers or ??? have any good DC motors in them for this kind of application?
Bigger is better…

? (to a point.)
I appreciate the answers received so far, excellent ideas! Toy cars, cordless drills and alternators all sound like they are worth experimenting with. I’ve also been reading about treadmill motors, which are a bit bigger and capable of producing more juice! I intend to leave this question up and open until the answers stop coming in, thanks to all contributers.

Windmill Farms answers:

One good source would be to go to an auto junkyard and get a permanent-magnet motor from a car.
Power window or power seat motors are fairly large, low speed permanent-magnet motors. However, they are not designed for continuous duty and cooling may be a problem if you try to run anything close to their rated current for more than a few minutes.

A blender or vacuum cleaner will not have a permanent-magnet motor; these have so-called “universal” motors which use the current that drives the motor to also create the magnetic field. You could in principle use one, but you would have to re-wire it with a separate field.

Tape decks, VCRs, etc do have DC motors but they are small. You will have a hard time getting more than a couple of watts. If that’s all you want then they will work, but don’t think, you are going to be powering a reading lamp or any significant fraction of household power demand.

You didn’t ask about it, but for what it’s worth, I think your best plan would be to get an alternator from an auto junkyard, preferably from a police car or a luxury car or SUV. (These tend to have heavy-duty alternators that often will put out 100 amps or more.) You will have to supply a field current here as well, but it comes pre-wired for it. It will be easier to have voltage control over your output if you use this rather than a permanent-magnet motor. Also an alternator will come with a built-in cooling fan. To get the maximum output, you will need to drive it at 3000~4000 rpm, but the good news is, if you can get this speed, you can get over a kilowatt of power, and it’s designed to have adequate cooling and a reasonable life at rated output.

Maria asks…

How to make a 2 axle, 4 wheel rubber band powered car?

For my science class, I have to make a rubber band powered car with 2 rubber band, 2 axles, and 4 wheels. I have an idea already, I just need ideas for how to tie the rubber band around the 2 axles.

Windmill Farms answers:

Here’s what I did back in engineering class in high school:

My car was technically rubber band powered, but the rubber band was not on the car. I built a separate catapult for it (which was like a T, the car straddled the long part of the T, with the shorter part being a backstop. I stretched the rubber band from the front of the launcher to the car, then had a release to send the car. It was technically powered by a rubber band, but had much more speed than you could probably get by simply having the car. Ours had to go as close to 10M as possible (but under 11M), so what you do for that is get enough string and wind from axle to axle, so that it runs out right at the desired distance and stops the car.

I used 2 CDs for each wheel, and put a rubber band around each wheel for traction for it to stop. If your car doesn’t have to stop though, only use one CD and no rubber band, since you would want less friction.

Ken asks…

What are some steps to make a simple wind powered car?

Im doing a project for school where we build a car that fan be pushed by a fan. Could anyone give me some steps on how to do this?

Windmill Farms answers:

Use a sail.

Steven asks…

Is it possible to use a car starter as a wind generator?

Hi; Car and wind power experts,
Is it possible to use a car starter as a wind generator? if it is, what are the advantages and disadvantages?

Many people use treadmill DC motors as wind generators, I guess that a car starter is DC motor also, so can be used as a wind generator, I could be completely wrong.

Windmill Farms answers:

Slinky, Ric F answered your question and his answer is valid, but a car alternator can be used to generate wind power, but without a makeover it can’t do a very good job, a Wind Belt will do as good, with less wind.

There are very few good, cheap HVAT’s out there because of their need to be placed in a high, stable wind environment over 10mph on average. (HAWT=Horizontal Axis)

A VAWT on the other hand, can start up with as little as a 4.4 mph wind and start generating electricity with only 5.5 to 6 mph. (VAWT=Vertical Axis)

Any armature/field motor, starters and generators/alternators, used to build a wind generator, will require a lot of wind to power the blades/vanes to get it to turning fast enough so it can generate any usable current. This can be a real problem because of the rpm’s, and wind speed/power necessary to get some meaningful energy from this kind of motor.

A permanent magnet motor, some have magnetic levitation to reduce drag and heat, can do a lot for a Vertical Axis Wind Turbine, but not as much for a Horizontal one.

William asks…

Does charging electric cars use more energy than if you used a gas powered car?

a lot of people have been saying that electric cars use just as much energy to charge them up as you would just using a gas powered car. Is this true?

Windmill Farms answers:

Most electric cars still use less net energy than a conventional auto. Many electric cars have mile-per-gallon equivalent ratings to enable comparisons between energy use. The Nissan Leaf has a 99 mpg equivalent. The lower-speed Zap Xebra has a 150 mpg equivalent rating. So the electrics use quite a bit less net energy than gasoline cars.

Electric cars also have the advantage of great renewable energy potential. If you were to have a solar or wind electric charging station for your electric car, you would be using nearly free and limitless energy and producing effectively no emissions.

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