Chinook ETS Drives Like, And Against, The Wind – Video

Chinook ETS


Chinook ETS

It’s part sailboat, part wind turbine, and all student-built. The Chinook ÉTS is the most unusual vehicle here at the Movin’On sustainable mobility conference in Montreal this week, so we had to go take a closer look. What we found was a sleek little pod designed not only as an engineering project and race car, but as a way to turn wind into motion.

Chinook ÉTS RenderingThe vehicle on display is the sixth version of the Chinook ÉTS. That doesn’t mean there are five older vehicles sitting in a garage somewhere, since each year, the student engineering team from École de Technologie Supérieure (ETS) here in Montreal updates or adapts the vehicle from the year before. The turbine gets raised, for example, or the blade design is adjusted. The next version will have more dramatic changes, like the front wheels being inside the frame, which should make it 25 kilograms lighter (down to 95 kg from the 120 kg of the vehicle display here). The next version exists only in digital renderings for now, but you can see it better by clicking on the image to the right. The Chinook ÉTS student club was formed in 2009.

So, what’s the point of a quirky vehicle like this? Well, Nicolas Cote – the somewhat jokingly self-described chief engineering officer – it’s about two things. First, it’s the annual wind vehicle challenge called Racing Aeolus. This is an annual event that take’s place in August at the Sea Dyke in Den Helder, Holland with the stated challenge to “sail against the wind.” This means generating electricity from the wind and using it to move a vehicle in the direction where the wind is coming from. There are no batteries on board (they’d be too heavy) so the Chinook ETS takes the wind energy from the 3,000-watt turbine, sends it down a driveshaft in the mast to a 14-speed gearbox in the back with a clutch and a differential, and then to the wheels. The vehicle’s maximum speed is 42.75 kilometers per hour (26.5 miles per hour) and needs wind speeds of between 12 and 45 kph (7.4 and 28 mph) to operate.

Chinook ETS Wind Car

Chinook ETS Wind Car. Photo by Sebastian Blanco.

Second, the mission is to learn. Cote, for example, worked on the materials for the vehicle, things like the carbon fiber chassis. Cote is getting a masters degree in composite materials, so even if the vehicle is a fanciful beast, the education is real.

Source: Chinook ETS and Chinook on Facebook

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26 responses to "Chinook ETS Drives Like, And Against, The Wind – Video"
  1. David Murray says:

    I would find it hard to believe this vehicle could do more than crawl in the direction of the wind. Being that you’d need a certain amount of weight to keep the thing from blowing away with the wind, and then being able to harness enough energy to move you toward the wind…. and then top it off, the faster you go, the more wind resistance you’d get on the vehicle, that doesn’t weigh very much.

    1. MikeM says:

      On the other hand, since wind power is proportional to the cube of the apparent wind (some of which comes from the forward crawl), the contraption probably creeps, rolls, then accelerates quite sharply until it does a wheely from the pressure on the fan.

      The driver, meanwhile, is so busy with the 14 speed gearbox that s/he fails to notice any of this until s/he is flat on s/his back.

      Drama then ensues if the thing then tips forward onto 4 wheels and repeats (except – oops! it’s in top gear. Dang!).

      Going round corners could be fun too.

      1. Chinook ETS says:

        The wind turbine was optimized to produce as much power as possible while minimizing the drag within the windspeed range of operation. We have a high windspeed and a low windspeed set of blades.

        Being engineers, the car was designed taking into account the flipping moment at a relative windspeed upwards of 60km/h.

        The 14-speed gearbox is operated easily using shift paddles on the stearing wheel.

        We have been building wind powered cars since 2009, and it has never once tipped over or did any sort of wheelie, even while going at >50 km/h against the wind.

        We have a bunch of videos on YouTube showing the car doing a bit more than “crawling against the wind”.

        1. Jay Cole says:


          Thanks for reminding us on the video link, we had forgotten about that…will add into story now!

    2. Josh Bryant says:

      It seems counterintuitive, but modern sailboats are faster going upwind than going downwind.

      Upwind uses lift force, which can peak at around 2.5 Cl (non-dimensional), where drag tops out around 1.0 Cd.

      You plug those values into this equation to get force:

      1/2 * density * free stream velocity ^2 * C * normalized area

      For airfoils normalized area is chord length, so the Cl and Cd is calculated by dividing force by chord (usually from tunnel tests). Auto business usually uses frontal area AFAIK.

    3. Mario says:

      Go look up chinook ets on YouTube, this thing sreems pretty fast.

    4. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      “I would find it hard to believe this vehicle could do more than crawl in the direction of the wind.”

      Back on the (now defunt) TheEESTory forum, we had a discussion of the Blackbird, a wind-powered vehicle that could go downwind faster than the wind. The team that accomplished that was then claiming they could also sail upwind faster than the wind. I confidently proclaimed that this was impossible, for the very reasons you cite, David.

      Well, we were both wrong. Sometimes physics defies common sense!

      You can find YouTube videos of a scale model which also will go upwind fast, on a treadmill. Search on “upwind faster than the wind”.

  2. Hans Wurst says:

    Poor guy getting cooked in there in the August sun 🙂

  3. JustWilliamPDX says:

    An interesting and amusing byproduct of research. Everyone should be encouraged to have fun, even in academia.

  4. DJ says:

    Bird killers!!!

    Interesting but talk about not practical…

  5. Warren says:

    Fun stuff. Considering the frontal area of the spinning rotor, and the electrical conversion losses, it is amazing they go at all. Of course there is a much better way to achieve this with no electricity involved. Compare the two videos.

    1. Kévin says:

      I dont think there is an electric loss. It all seems mechanical.

      1. Marcel says:

        It is all mechanical.

        1. Warren says:

          So it is. I was thrown by the reference to the “3000 watt” turbine. I wonder how they limit the power of the turbine? Does it change blade pitch to dump energy in stronger wind?

          1. Warren says:

            OK. I just read the rules. They limit rotor rpm automatically, either with a brake or rotor pitch. The vehicles can use mechanical or electrical drive. Any battery, or flywheel energy storage, if used, must start at zero at the start of the run.

          2. Otmar says:

            I was also puzzled by the title of the article that claims “on electric power.” It does not seem to be correct.

            1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

              Yes, it looks like the description of the wind turbine as “3000 watts” fooled either the author of this article, or the editor who put that title on it, into thinking it runs on electric power. It’s completely off-topic for InsideEVs. But still a very fascinating, and fun, exploration of engineering and physics!

              1. Warren says:

                Not entirely off topic. The most important point of EVs is reducing fossil fuel use. Following the OPEC oil embargo, there were proposed designs for rotor assisted freighters. They are being proposed again. And, of course, there was the Darrieus rotor catamaran in Water World.

              2. Mario says:

                3000w doesn’t mean electrical , in the case of a mechanical drive, torque (Nm) x speed (rad/s) = power (W).

                1. Warren says:

                  Correct. As an electric assist bicycle rider, I often talk to bicyclists, who are already familiar with watts for measuring human electrochemical muscle power. The motorcyclists I meet often require conversion to horsepower to get it.

  6. Otmar says:

    I think this would be especially fun if they raced downwind with a requirement that they go faster than the wind that is pushing them. Yes, it’s been done, but many people find it hard to understand.

    1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      I couldn’t understand how that was possible until I realized the oddly-shaped turbine blade (which also acts as a sail) rotates to spin against the wind, thus pushing the car/cart forward faster than the wind. It is a counter-intuitive design.

  7. Warren says:

    Wikipedia is wonderful.

    Blackbird went 2.8 times wind speed downwind, and 2.1 times upwind. There is no theoretical limit for rotors.

    Interestingly, the wingsail powered Greenbird hit 2.5-4.2 times wind speed upwind.

  8. Frank says:

    Nice improvement in comparison with the former version. I do expect that especially the lower drag rather than the weight will contribute to the speed. The friction in the 9-speed gearbox still could have a negative impact on the speed. Why don’t you use a windmill with variable pitch to speed up? In that case, you can replace the gearbox by a simple chain and lower the transmission friction. According to the theory (see you probably know that, besides the drag, the transmission friction has a large impact on the speed.

  9. Warren says:

    Wind powered ships were enough for earlier entrepreneurs to build vast global empires. But endless growth requires ever faster, and larger ships. Any hope of reducing CO2 by 50-85% by 2050 requires not just slowing, but reversal of growth. This is a problem no industry or government leaders will ever address.