Saturday, December 30, 2006

Why Gyro Cars? An end of year reflection

If you are reading this blog or have visited my gyro-car pages at you probably have some interest in gyro stabilized ground transportation technology, typically vehicles that stay upright through the use of gyroscopes. A classic example is the Gyro-X, seen above as it appeared in a 1967 article in Science and Mechanics, a collaboration between famed automotive designer Alex Tremuls (the Cord, the '33 Duesenberg, and the Tucker) and pioneering gyrodynamist Thomas O. Summers, Jr (holder of more than four dozen gyro-related patents). Yet more classic, and proving that there are very few 'new' ideas, is Schilovski's 1914 Wolsely seen here.
There have also been railway trains designed to run on one rail. But why go this route? The article on the Gyro-X covers many of the reasons, broadly stated as more efficient. You can go faster with less power, further with less fuel. Both wind resistance and rolling resistance of the rubber on the road can be significantly reduced with the inline, two-wheel design.

Another factor cited by Science and Mechanics is the potential to use a gyro as a sort of flywheel, a source of energy. It sounds as though the designers of the Gyro-X were considering using the kinetic energy stored in the 250 pound flywheel to temporarily boost the power available to the vehicle's drive train. Remember, that article was published in America in 1967, here cars were all about performance. But it is only a short step from the power boost idea to an energy-saving idea my father had forty years ago: reclaim energy from braking by transferring it to a flywheel. In fact. buses that used flywheels as their energy source were ince used in Europe.

In WWII my father worked with gyros used on battleships to stabilized the big guns. He knew that they were an efficient way to store energy as well as keep things upright. Once the rotating mass was up to speed it could be kept there with small amounts of incremental energy.

This opens several fruitful avenues of thought relative to the main automotive challenge today: fuel economy. Given the high cost of batteries used in electric vehicles, why not use a flywheel instead, one that could be topped up by braking? For longer distance driving a small diesel motor could top up power in the flywheel. And since you have a flywheel, why not drop two of the wheels and use the flywheel to hold the thing up? Come on car designers and engineers. It is now 40 years since the Gyro-X appeared. Time to update the design, think outside the box and save the world from fossil fuels!