Using The Prius' Regenerative Brakes To Power A Roller Coaster

from the neat dept

Notcot has this neat story about how some engineers are prototyping the idea of taking the regenerative braking system of the Toyota Prius, which effectively turns the “friction” into usable energy, rather than wasted energy, and using it in other contexts, such as to power a roller coaster. The general concept came from a program Toyota put together called “Ideas for Good,” and one part of that included a commercial, where someone made the suggestion to power an amusement park with such a system. You can see that commercial here:

That resulted in Toyota teaming up with Deeplocal to build a prototype system of a Prius coaster car that captures energy via the braking system. You can see the short video that shows the results (and some of the process) below:

And back at the Notcot post there are a bunch of photos of the project as well. Here’s just one to whet your appetite:
To be honest, I was a little disappointed in the results. I recognize this is more proof of concept, but I’d really like to see something like this done on a bigger scale. It did feel like a bit of a letdown to just see a little slope and roll, rather than anything resembling a real rollercoaster. Perhaps we’ll be able to do a followup post before too long with a bigger and better example…

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Companies: toyota

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Comments on “Using The Prius' Regenerative Brakes To Power A Roller Coaster”

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CDWatters (profile) says:

Re: Re: Gimme a break!

Most coasters, especially multitrain types, have brakes available throughout the route. Sometimes these are to make sure the train is not exceeding safe limits for the track ahead. Energy returns on those systems are probably pretty low.

Some of the older coasters have multiple circles of track around the ride with bumps and dips to use up the energy before entering the station, but a lot of the newer coasters, taller and faster, wedged into tight footprints (Top Thrill at Cedar Point comes to mind) definitely could recycle some of the braking energy to reduce the load needed to hit 120mph in 4 seconds. The braking at the end is pretty severe.

Anonymous Coward says:

It isn't a good idea anyway...

The idea was pretty stupid to begin with. The brakes on a roller coaster do not engage until absolutely necessary. The general design is such that once it’s moving they only use the brakes to stop to let people on/off, the rest of the time they generally use air resistance/gravity to kill momentum as needed through out the trip. Harnessing the tiny amount of energy these devices can capture, on such small amounts of use, is more or less a waste of money.

You would be much better using vibration energy capturing instead.

Overcast (profile) says:

Thing is, using this concept on a rollercoaster, would seem to take all the needed energy from the coaster..

Maybe that final moment of braking might realize a small return, however.

Of course, this would require more equipment on the coaster, which means more energy will be required to get it up the initial hill.

Yes, energy isn’t free, but getting people thinking and innovating is free. Too bad patent trolls keep many from even bothering to mention their ideas.

I’ve had a few good ideas, maybe patentable, but the cost of getting a patent + potential legal issues just would mean a bunch of hassle for nothing.

CDWatters (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The design in the video isn’t practical, just a proof of concept.

Coasters don’t have brakes on the cars for the most part, the brakes are really on the track. One common design is a metal fin sticking down, and the brakes grab the fins as the train passes.

If the fins were magnetic, and the “brakes” wire loops, then regenerative braking would work without having to completely change the coaster design.

New Mexico Mark says:

New entry for the book of bad ideas

Good idea… something that slows the “coaster” while going downhill. Is someone missing the point here?

If the regenerative braking was designed to capture nearly 100 percent of the kinetic energy, the ride could go downhill almost as slowly as it climbed the next one using the regenerated energy. In fact, if we got rid of those pesky hills, we could just impart the minimum energy right in the beginning for the ride to gradually coast to a stop back at the beginning.

“Fun”, safe, and green, all at the same time! Maybe this is why environmentalists are not normally called upon to design amusement parks. 🙂

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