Hybrid roller coaster concept


Toyota recently ran an ad campaign touting “Ideas for Good” in which the actors speculated uses for Toyota Synergy Drive hybrid systems in non-automotive related applications. One idea that was floated involved using the car’s regenerative braking system at an amusement park, in an effort to reclaim and use some of a roller coaster’s kinetic energy.

Toyota sent a Prius to the team over at Deeplocal, who deconstructed it and found that the car could generate 60 amps of current when braking. That’s not an insignificant number, so they decided to create a cool demonstration showing how powerful the technology is. They built a coaster car from the Prius’ guts, and positioned it at the top of an elevated platform, which was connected to a 70 foot track. In the video embedded below they push the car from the platform and down the track, using the regenerative braking system to illuminate a large display of amusement park lights.

While the video is little more than a well-produced advertisement for Toyota, we can’t help but think that it’s pretty cool. It’s doubtful that we will suddenly see an inrush of hybrid-based roller coasters any time soon, but the concept is interesting nonetheless.

[via Notcot]

36 thoughts on “Hybrid roller coaster concept

    1. How do you figure? 60 amps at a decent voltage should be enough to power everything there for quite a while.

      I for one, think it would be more credible if the mentioned the voltage.

  1. Dear HaD,

    Please stop embedding videos with six layers of javascript coming from eight different servers. Either link directly to the youtube video or host it yourself. There are those of us not willing/able to allow javascript from untrusted servers.


  2. @Will,

    It’s a Vimeo video, embedded directly from their site. There was no other video available, so that is what we posted. Unfortunately we cannot control if they choose to utilize a CDN or javascript for serving their videos.

  3. @Aleks Agreed. They actually mention in the video around 1:10 that they are “simulating” the amount of energy created in the lighting set. A little too showy, melodramatic, brand promoting for my blood.

  4. All their talk of efficiency, blah, blah, and yet they use lots of incandescent light bulbs. Or maybe that’s the intentional resistive load for the braking system. Still, seems incongruous.

  5. Why did they have to deconstruct a working car to figure out how much current it could generate? That information should have been available from Toyota.

  6. “Using lights from Kennywood amusement park, we simulated the amount of energy we were able to measure being generated from the regenerative braking system”

    So they didn’t actually use the power from the car to light the displays. They just measured it and let “the same” amount of power through to their lighting displays.

    What do I have to fake and gimmick up to get a free Prius?

  7. “the car could generate 60 amps of current when braking. That’s not an insignificant number, so they decided to create a cool demonstration showing how powerful the technology is”

    It doesn’t matter how much current is generated; the amount of energy reclaimed is the critical factor (at least reporting the peak power produced during braking would be an interesting, if not complete, metric). So it is pointless to report 60 A without reporting voltage as well, and even then, if the current and voltage are constantly varying, simply reporting current and voltage separately is not useful either. How much energy goes into the roller coaster, and how much is reclaimed by regenerative braking? —> That is, what is the efficiency? How much money and/or energy would such a design save an amusement park?

    1. Agreed. Voltage at the same time as Amperage is definitely required; I initially figured it must be a decent amount of voltage at that amperage to power all those bulbs, but now, I wonder if they left that figure out on purpose.

  8. at ~4:07, it’s obvious – the video flashes up “Dramatization. Lights not actually powered by roller coaster”.
    well, that was a waste of 5 minutes…

  9. the thing i disliked in the original commercial was when they said they could “power the amusement park” on the reclaimed energy. now this is obviously not correct, the maximum energy that could be produced by the breaking mechanism is equal to the amount of energy used to lift the carriage to the top of the hill, otherwise we have some weird defiance of the law of conservation of energy.
    the actual energy produced should likely be less, even 100% efficiency of the breaks to convert all kinetic energy of the cart into electrical energy would still not be equal to the amount used to lift the cart due to energy lost from wind resistance and the smaller amount lost to friction.

    that being said, the ability to reclaim the energy (which would likely happen once the cart has come to a rest, so the energy would need to be stored in a battery and then attached to the grid…its just safest that way) would be a great boon to the amusement park, as it stands they use energy to lift the cart and then use energy to stop it (though a backup break would still be a good idea)

  10. And the application ends up being just as dumb and pseudo-science as the commercial “We could power the amusement park off of regenerated energy!”. Go back to freshman physics please.

  11. @ColinB

    My thoughts exactly, but you also need to report time as well to get energy. Just volts and current is only power, not energy. You hinted at this, but I just wanted to make it a little more clear.

    They could only have measured 60 Amps at 12V for 1 second, and that’s unimpressive.

    System voltage for a hybrid is 201V. So if it was 60 amps at that voltage, that’s 12kW, but I’m guessing only for the 2 seconds of braking. So it would only capture 24kW-seconds or 6.7 Watt-hours. So it would power a 60W light bulb for 10 minutes.

    Math done in my head while at work, so it may be off. Can someone confirm/deny?

  12. Yea more free prius’s and fewer faked gimmicks please. I’m sure every commenter here, myself included (excluding the javascript whiner ;), could come up with some better demonstrations of the efficiency of regenerative braking.

  13. If its just a simulation and not the real thing, its just stupid. They think people are that dumb? Come’on, make it output the real voltage and use that for the lights, and lets see what happens them. ;-)

  14. This is just bizarre. Hybrids work in stop and go city traffic. Roller coasters only have one go followed by one stop. Coasters are designed to, well, coast. You inject a great dollop of energy into them at the start by dragging them to the top of a steep hill, then they run carefully off that energy all the way down. As far as I know most coasters are designed so that they never brake during the run. So for most of the run, you couldn’t recover any energy or the coaster would stop too soon. The energy could only be found at the very end when the cars are brought to a stop at the station. So at best you’d get a rapidly falling off spike of power in the last 2 seconds of the ride.

  15. Actually, many amusement parks use motor drivers that can regenerate current. They just pump it back into the grid.

  16. Actually, the idea is not so new. I work in the automotive industry and we had a request for information from a company which builds so called ‘powered coasters’.

    Their idea is to use coasters powered basically by the drive train of a battery powered car. They would not need any power rails, because the recovered energy would help the battery to last through the whole ride. The battery would then be charged after the ride.

    The recovered energy helps to reduce energy costs, as well as battery costs.

  17. I’m pretty sure some Rollercoasters have been using regenerative AC drives for quite some time.

    Regenerating current from a spinning (or falling) load is nothing new, and Toyota should be ashamed with themselves for trying to say they are pioneering it.

  18. every rail ride already design to reclaim energy otherwise ride
    would be boring single rise and down, so the idea to steal energy will halt the ride

  19. ugh. bicycle dynamos have been doing this for years and make a more appealing concept rather than taking the entire drivetrain of a car just to use its motors as a generator and the unused parts as a weight

    basically i’m saying that i’d prefer an advert that compared hybrids to the lights on bikes, rather than try and appeal to my childhood through images of roller coasters

  20. Before going further, I wonder how many out there in the DIY community are working energy recovering methods of any kind? While a portion of the script in the begging did prompt an involuntary groan, the only thing I heard about powering an amusement park was on the order that it could supply a portion of the power an amusement park uses or send it into the grid. Even it can only return half the amount of energy used to lift a roller coaster to the peak, there’s a net gain. While it’s a commercial for Toyota, it’s really hard to find fault with the dialog about the goal getting more out of the energy we are going to be using anyway. So it’s a dramatization, until someone can show use the the reality doesn’t live up to what is being said I’ll have a problem with this dramatization. In the event I’m supposed to have a problem with this dramatization for only because it’s a dramatization, excuse me if I don’t. That would mean I should have problem with dramatizations that effectively teach capacitance, inductance, and so on, I generally don’t require visual aids, but many do. Would have been nice if they did build power rails, that power actual light circuits, but I’m pleased the entire dramatization wasn’t created with software, and actual get your hands dirty labor was employed. In the event that this was a dramatization, I have to believe that that lighting shown, wasn’t built on set, and where stock photographs, meaning this commercial didn’t use incandescent lamps one here finds problematic.

  21. @therian In the roller coaster example the ride has to stop to allow one load of passengers to unload, and another to load up. I believe it safe to assume this will not occur until ride has used up the energy it needed to give a not boring experience, that has to be true if regenerative braking is employed or not.

  22. So … if they didn’t actually use the regenerative breaking to power the lights…

    … did they even use breaking at /all/ on the coaster? or did they just slow it with a winch?

  23. If your roller coaster has substantial kinetic energy when the ride ends, you’re doing it wrong.

    Alas, kids these days.

  24. If it can only reclaim half of the energy used lifting it, that’s still called a “net loss,” not a net gain.

    Honestly, that commercial made no sense.

    And yes, more than dozens of us are working on waste energy recapture in this delicate time in the developed world.

    My biggest concern is recapturing waste heat shed by air conditioning systems. I’d like to capture all of it using the Seebeck Effect or something similar — turn it into light or water sterilization or something.

    Truth be told, we are still living in the ‘water age;’ all of what we have is a result of learning to bring water to population centers…

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