The Explorer is hardly a land yacht: The open-topped vehicle uses an aluminum frame surrounded by a carbon fiber and structural foam body to keep weight down to 200 kg (441 lbs.) Electric power is courtesy of an 8 kWh battery pack, half the size of the one in the Chevy Volt. The three wheels are sourced from a bicycle. The overall package resembles Austin-Healey's diminutive Bugeye Sprite and with a top speed of around 50 mph, it's hardly a speed demon. However, despite its questionable "car" status, the Wind Explorer does work as promised.
Last February the car drove across the southern coast of Australia from Albany to Sydney, a trip of over 3,000 miles, in eighteen days. This marked the first time a vehicle had crossed a continent using wind power, and it now holds the record for distance traveled by a wind-powered land vehicle in a 36 hour period, going 306 miles.
Some grid use was planned while the car was fine-tuned, but this had to be extended by Tropical Storm Yasi, which limited the use of the wind turbine. Just over 1,300 miles used electricity drawn from the grid for a total fuel cost of $15. The car was pulled along by kite power for 260 miles. This proved to be more practical than it sounds, as the empty Australian roads prevented collisions with vehicles and roadside obstructions. The team did get a kite tangled in an overhead electric line, but the team was able to pull the emergency release and restring the kite.
1,400 miles used electricity generated by the on-board windmill. Under more suitable conditions this could have replaced the grid electricity. On average, the batteries still retained about 20% of their charge by the time the team had stopped for the night.