Clockwork Concept Car
By Roderick Edwards 2011 © ™
SUMMARY: A theoretical paper for an automobile design based on the coiled mainspring used in wristwatches and some novelty toys. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mainspring )
The possibility of creating and powering an automobile by the principles of clockworks is met by some immediate objections.
The Law of Conservation of Energy (Loss) – Where theoretical energy constant diminishes due to factors such as friction. So all energy is neither created nor destroyed and typically it will take more energy to produce less energy due to loss in transfer. Therefore, it is supposed that a clockwork car would take more energy to “windup” than could ever be gained in operation. (http://library.thinkquest.org/2745/data/lawce1.htm )
Already, technology exists for “automatic” or “bumper” wristwatches that maintain a continuous wind from the arm movement of the wearer. This same concept would be implemented by the general movement of the automobile. Friction, bumps, and downward grades along with recapturing energy from a “bobbing wheel” (explained later) and from braking and coasting would go into winding the mainspring, much the way an automatic wristwatch operates. Supplemental energy could be harnessed from quartz and solar power; which would not be stored in a typical nickle-cad battery but rather utilized immediately and directly into winding the mainspring. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automatic_watch )
Regeneration – Even if such a vehicle could function, what would be the cost of regeneration? It would obviously require further winding. How would this be done?
It is admitted that the initial winding at the manufacture point would possibly take more energy than the automobile expends, but due to automatic regeneration, as detailed in SOLUTION 1, in theory the car would never need to visit any sort of station for further winding.
Regulation – A basic, windup device expends all of its energy immediately.
There would need to be some type of regulator to release the desired amount of energy to propel the car. Basic clockworks already regulate the release of energy of the mainspring; otherwise a wound watch would spin the watch-hands immediately and not keep time. For centuries, horologists have designed additional functions to clocks and watches; such as the second hand, monthly and yearly calendars, completely operated from the mainspring of subsequent gears. (http://www.horology.edu/ )
Weight and Space Prohibitive – The mainspring would have to be very heavy and consume much space. Especially as the “barrel” or encasement needed to hold the mainspring would need to be constructed of heavy metal to protect against sudden unwind.
Depending how it is designed, the weight and space consumption of an automobile designed with a mainspring versus a traditional automobile should be comparable. Other, lighter weight materials besides heavy metal may be utilized to encase the mainspring and offer as much or more protection. Advancements in mainspring design have greatly reduced the potential of sudden unwind.
Breakage of Mainspring – How long could a mainspring last before it broke and what if it broke while the car was in operation?
Even though it was common during the early years of wind-up clocks and watches, advancements in metallurgy have greatly reduced the potential for breakage of the mainspring. There is possibility that the material used in an automotive mainspring would not be metal but yet something more durable. Just as with a traditional combustion/piston engine, transmission operated car there is potential of failure. Safeguards would need to be in place that would disengage the mainspring drive, allowing the car to coast safely to a stop or allow the operator to apply a breaking system so that the result is not a sudden and violent jolt. There would also need to be consideration of the material used for the mainspring so as to reduce a “tired” or “set” mainspring; which in a timepiece will cause a loss of timing but in a concept car could cause loss of power.
Having met most of the immediate objections with viable solutions or answers, it is my intent to reach out to potential development partners who can assist in designing and testing various stages of the Clockwork Concept Car. I am more interested in the views of clock-makers and horologists at the moment so as to realize the potential of mainspring power. Working with traditional automobile designers and makers may stifle innovation that can only thrive without the preconceived concepts of traditional automobile designers and makers.
I am eager to accept criticism or encouragement along with ideas no matter how theoretical.
Please initially contact Roderick Edwards via this email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Further contact could necessitate via telephone, postage, or in person as warranted and as mutually interested.