Electric Vehicles Could Be The Grid Storage Solution We’ve Been Dreaming Of

As nation states grapple with the spectre of environmental and economic losses due to climate change, we’ve seen an ever greater push towards renewable energy sources to replace heavier polluters like coal and natural gas. One key drawback of these sources has always been their intermittent availability, spurring interest in energy storage technologies that can operate at the grid level.

With the rise in distributed energy generation with options like home solar power, there’s been similar interest in the idea of distributed home battery storage. However, homeowners can be reluctant to make investments in expensive batteries that take years to pay themselves off in energy savings. But what if they had a giant battery already, just sitting outside in the driveway? Could electric vehicles become a useful source of grid power storage? As it turns out, Ford wants to make their electric trucks double as grid storage batteries for your home.

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Sailing Faster Than The Wind Itself

If you search the outer reaches of the internet you will find all sorts of web sites and videos purporting to answer to free energy in the form of perpetual motion machines and other fantastical structures that bend the laws of physics to breaking point. We’d love them to be true but we have [Émilie du Châtelet] and her law of conservation of energy to thank for dashing those hopes. So when along comes a machine that appears to violate a fundamental Law of Physics, it’s reasonably met with skepticism. But the wind-powered vehicle built by [Rick Cavallaro] looks as though it might just achieve that which was previously thought impossible. It’s a machine that can move with the wind at a speed faster than the wind itself.

A fundamental law of sailing boats is that when they are sailing with the wind, i.e. in the same direction as the wind, they can’t sail faster than the wind itself. Sailing boats can go faster than the wind powering them by sailing across it at an angle to create lift from their sails, but this effect doesn’t work as the angle tends towards that of the wind.

The vehicle in the video below the break is a sleek and lightweight machine with a large propeller above it, which we are told is not the windmill power source we might imagine it to be. Instead it mimics the effect of a pair of sailing boats sailing across the wind in a spiral around a long cylinder, and thus becomes in effect a fan when turned by the motoin in the craft’s wheels. The drive comes from the wind working on the craft itself, and thus as can be seen from the motion of a streamer on its front, it can overtake the wind. It seems too good to be true at first sight but the explanation holds water. Now we want a ride too!

For fairly obvious reasons, the fantastical world of pseudo-physics isn’t our bag here at Hackaday. But if something might hold promise we’ll at least give it a look. Not all such things we cover turn out to change those Laws of Physics, though.

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Full Size 3D-Printed Wind Turbine

Wind energy isn’t quite as common of an alternative energy source as solar, at least for small installations. It’s usually much easier just to throw a few panels and a battery together than it is to have a working turbine with many moving parts that need to be maintained when only a small amount of power is needed. However, if you find yourself where the wind blows but the sun don’t shine, there are a few new tools available to help create the most efficient wind turbine possible, provided you have a 3D printer.

[Jan] created this turbine with the help of QBlade, a piece of software that helps design turbine blades. It doesn’t have any support for 3D printing though, such as separating the blades into segments, infill, and attachment points, so [Jan] built YBlade to help take care of all of this and made the software available on the project’s GitHub page. The blades are only part of this story, though. [Jan] goes on to build a complete full-scale wind turbine that can generate nearly a kilowatt of power at peak production, although it does not currently have a generator attached and all of the energy gets converted to heat.

While we hope that future versions include a generator and perhaps even pitched blades to control rotor speed, [Jan] plans to focus his efforts into improving the blade design via the 3D printer. He is using an SLA printer for these builds, but presumably any type of printer would be up to the task of building a turbine like this. If you need inspiration for building a generator, take a look at this build which attempted to adapt a ceiling fan motor into a wind turbine generator.


Solar Plane Is Like One Big Flying Solar Panel

Solar-powered plane concepts typically focus on high-efficiency glider-type designs, so as to make the best possible use of the limited power available from the sun. [rctestflight] wanted to try a different school of thought, instead building a relatively inefficient plane that nonetheless packed a huge amount of solar panels on board.

The plane consisted of a pizza-box style design, with a simple foam rectangular wing that was absolutely covered in solar panels. The plane was controlled with an off-the-shelf autopilot, and fitted with cheap, no-brand MPPT modules to handle charging the batteries. The plane faced difficulties in flight, most often with stability, which led to the autopilot getting the plane lost on one occasion. However, one flight was achieved with a full one hour and thirty minute duration, indicating the solar panels were helping to extend flight times beyond what was capable with batteries alone.

Further research on the ground showed that the cheap MPPT modules were wasting power, and there was more to be had. A better MPPT module was subbed in and showed that the panels could generate up to 5 amps under good conditions, while the plane only needed roughly 4.2 amps to fly. This would allow for indefinite flight in sunny conditions, though probably would not allow enough energy to be banked to fly 24 hours round the clock due to the lack of power at night.

We’ve followed [rctestflight]’s solar plane experiments for a while now, and can’t wait to see the next iteration. Video after the break.

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Electric Vehicles Do Battle On Pikes Peak

When we think of electric cars, more often than not we’re drawn to the environmental benefits and the smooth quiet commuter drives they’re so ideally suited for. However, EVs can also offer screaming performance, most notably due to their instant-on torque that gives them a big boost over internal combustion vehicles.

In recent years, this has led to a variety of independent and manufacturer-supported efforts taking on some of motorsport’s classic events. Today, we’re looking at a handful of recent entries that have tackled one of the most gruelling events in motorsport – the Pikes Peak International Hillclimb. Continue reading “Electric Vehicles Do Battle On Pikes Peak”

Flat-Pack Pasta: Like Ikea Furniture Without The Weird Wrench

When it comes to food packaging, there’s no bigger scam than potato chip bags, right? People complain about the air (nitrogen, actually) inside, but it’s there for a reason — nitrogen pushes out oxygen, so the chips live in a state of factory-fresh dormancy until you rip open the bag and release the gas. If you want flat-pack chips, there’s always those uniformly-shaped potato slurry wafers that come in a can. But even those usually manage to have a few broken ones.

On the other hand, no one complains about the extra space in their box of fusilli — that would be silly. But seriously, successfully shipping fragile foods requires either flat packing or a lot of extra space, especially if that food comes in a myriad of fun 3D shapes like pasta does. Everybody knows that 3D pasta is superior to flat pasta because it holds sauces so much better. The pasta must be kept intact!

The great thing about pasta as a food is that it’s simple to make, and it’s more nutritious than potato chips. Because of these factors, pasta is often served in extreme situations to large groups of people, like soldiers and the involuntarily displaced. But storing large quantities of shapely pasta takes up quite a bit of space. And because of all that necessary air, much of the packaging goes to waste.

So what if you could keep your plethora of pasta in, say, a filing cabinet? A research team led by the Morphing Matter Lab at Carnegie Mellon University have created a way to make flat-pack pasta that springs to life after a few minutes in boiling water.

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Custom Macro Keyboard Looks Good In Wood

There’s more than one way to make a mechanical macro pad, and this wooden wonder represents one of our favorites. [Tauno Erik] had an old rubber dome rectangle keyboard lying around that still worked, but the poor thing was missing some of its caps. After salvaging the controller, [Tauno Erik] got to work on the tedious task of figuring out the mapping of the matrix, which was made easier with a Python script.

Almost every component of this beauty is wood, including the mounting plate and those thicc and lovely keycaps — their top layer is solid oak, and the bottom bit is birch plywood. In order to interface the ‘caps with the switches, [Tauno Erik] designed and printed connector pieces that sit inside the extra large keycaps and accept the stems of the key switches.

Speaking of switches, we’re not sure if [Tauno Erik] ended up using Cherry green switches, browns, or a mix of both (that would be interesting), but each one is mounted on a custom PCB along with a diode and a pull-up resistor. You can see more build pictures at [Tauno Erik]’s site, and stick around for a visual tour of the completed build after the break.

Wood is a great choice for keycaps, and we imagine they’ll only look better with age and use. A more common use for wood on a keyboard build is in surprisingly comfortable wrist rests.