Olli has been tested on public roads in Washington, D.C., and will soon be seen in Miami and Las Vegas. The mini-bus itself will be manufactured in microfactories in Phoenix and Knoxville, Tenn.

“We expect next year to have a new design that utilizes more composite parts,” says Hill. “[The current] design has a metal skeleton frame that we hope to replace, to some extent, with the more composite structure. We’re evaluating that right now and working on the engineering trades for composite structure versus metal structure, both the cost and manufacturability aspects of those.”

Building a Record-breaking Wind Blade

Application: World’s largest wind turbine blade

Companies: LM Wind Power and Adwen

“Wow” Factor: Two leaders in the European wind energy market have partnered to create an 88.4-meter wind turbine blade.

Advances in composite materials and technologies allow companies to push the envelope and create products that only a few years ago seemed impossible. One of those boundary-pushing companies is LM Wind Power, a Denmark-based supplier of rotor blades for wind turbines with manufacturing plants in eight countries. LM Wind Power has broken the world record for the longest wind blade three times: In 2004, it created a 61.5-meter blade and in 2011 a 73.5-meter blade. Earlier this year, LM Wind Power produced six prototype blades for Adwen, an offshore wind farm company. Each one measured 88.4 meters. That’s nearly 100 yards – almost the equivalent of a football field.

Engineers at LM Wind Power and Adwen spent months working on the design and integration of a blade for Adwen’s AD 8-180 wind turbine model, slated to have 8MW of nominal capacity and a 180-meter rotor diameter. But the companies aren’t simply seeking recognition in the Guinness Book of World Records. Larger wind turbines can produce greater – and greener – electricity.

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One of six 88.4-meter wind turbine blades prepares to leave LM Wind Power’s manufacturing facility in Lunderskov, Denmark, and journey 135 miles away for structural testing. Photo credit: LM Wind Power

Even for an experienced company like LM Wind Power, the project is challenging. “Everything becomes more complicated when working with such huge structures,” says Roel Schuring, vice president of engineering for LM Wind Power. “But the design is based on many years of experience in making wind turbine blades that provide the right balance between weight, length, strength and cost.”

Selecting the right composite material is key. LM Wind Power uses a combination of GFRP and CFRP, though it declined to provide details on the materials. “The hybrid technology is more cost-effective than full carbon blades and very robust in the manufacturing process,” says Schuring. “It reduces weight and static moment by up to 20 percent – two key vectors in blade design, enabling larger rotors to be fitted to the turbines to harvest three to six percent more annual energy production (AEP).”