Page last updated at 17:49 GMT, Friday, 27 March 2009

Wind-powered car breaks record

Greenbird wind powered vehicle
Wind powered Greenbird reached speeds of 126.1 mph

A British engineer from Hampshire has broken the world land speed record for a wind-powered vehicle.

Richard Jenkins reached 126.1mph (202.9km/h) in his Greenbird car on the dry plains of Ivanpah Lake in Nevada.

Mr Jenkins told the BBC that it had taken him 10 years of "hard work" to break the record and that, on the day, "things couldn't have been better".

American Bob Schumacher set the previous record of 116 mph in 1999, driving his Iron Duck vehicle.

"It's great, it's one of those things that you spend so long trying to do and when it actually happens, it's almost too easy," Mr Jenkins told the BBC.

The Greenbird is a carbon fibre composite vehicle that uses wind (and nothing else) for power. The only metalwork used is for the wing bearings and the wheel unit.

Sail away

The designers describe it as a "very high performance sailboat" but one that uses a solid wing, rather than a sail, to generate movement.

Mr Jenkins, from Lymington, spent 10 years designing the vehicle, with Greenbird the fifth vehicle he has built to try to break the record.

Richard Jenkins
Richard Jenkins spent 10 years trying to break the record

Due to the shape of the craft, especially at such high speeds, the wings also provide lift; a useful trait for an aircraft, but very hazardous for a car. To compensate for this, the designers have added small wings to "stick" the car to the ground, in the same way Formula 1 cars do.

"Greenbird weighs 600kg when it's standing still," said Mr Jenkins. "But at speed, the effect of the wings make her weigh just over a tonne."

Richard Jenkins spent much of his childhood sailing on the South Coast of England and from the age of 10 was designing what he calls "radical contraptions".

He has also built a wind powered craft that travels on ice, rather than land.

"Now that we've broken the record, I'm going back on to the ice craft. There's still some debate as to whether travelling on ice or land will be faster," he said

"But I think we've got some time. 126.1 mph was a good margin to beat the record and I think it will be some time before anyone else breaks it."

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