Can this wind-powered car defy physics?

The answer is "yes, to an extent"

The laws of physics dictate that the wind can't ever push anything faster than it is going but Derek Muller from Veritasium YouTube channel decided he should try and disprove this by taking a wind-powered 'car' to El Mirage, a dry lake in California. The 'car' in question is actually a three-wheeler (they call it a 'propeller craft'); it's called the 'Blackbird' and it was actually built precisely for this purpose.

You can easily see the massive big twin-blade turbine at the rear but there's a lot more going on underneath the minimalist bodywork. The wind-fuelled turbine gets the car moving and then the wheels turn a sprocket, which then pulls a chain, which then feeds back mechanical energy to the turbine, providing forward thrust.

In the video, you can see that the vehicle is using windpower twice. Once, by simply using windpower to move downwind, and then once more because the propeller works as a fan, hitting air molecules, pushing them backwards and generating extra thrust. The question remains: can this vehicle break physics? Probably. Or probably that's just called 'cheating'. But whatever, it's fun.

If you know a thing or two about physics, feel free 2 share in the comments

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Comments (19)

  • Your opening statement is wrong, you only have to watch the Americas Cup to see that boats can sail faster than the wind speed.

    It is all to do with vectors.

    Called Apparent Wind in sailing.

    Also, the idea that the turbine acts as a fan in total bollocks, look up Betz's Law.

    Can't see why people would do this, other than it is fun.

    Better off having static wind turbines and charging the vehicles batteries.

    Then have races between charging stations.

      1 month ago
    • The only reason why sailing boat can travel faster than wind is current.

        1 month ago
    • Why better off? It's designed to prove a point with the advantage of none of the costly and carbon issues of battery production.

        1 month ago
  • We have sand yachts doing just that on our local beach most windy days!

      1 month ago
  • How can anyone take this seriously - Its got JOBY written on the side of it !

      1 month ago
  • Interesting concept but not possible in my mind. If the turbine itself is connected to the drive shaft you’d struggle to set off from standstill (friction losses and mass to shift) unless you wait till the turbine gets up to speed and then you engage a slipping clutch. You still theoretically fighting a loosing battle against friction and mass.

    If someone invents a solar panel that generates more electricity than gets used in driving an electric motor, that would be the holi grail.

      1 month ago
  • Nothing can defy physics, but as we know more and more, our grasp of the subject expands, so what used to be 'impossible', can now be done because now we know enough to do it.

      1 month ago