September 10, 2017

What happened to the Superbus?

Filed under: Automobiles,Sustainability,Technology by Branko Collin @ 5:05 pm


It was a crazy idea that might just work—the Superbus, a cross between a Formula One car and good old public transport.

The Superbus was one of the many sustainable inventions that Delft technology professor and former astronaut Wubbo Ockels either came up with or helped develop. It would have comfortably carried 23 passengers in bucket seats on a custom built road between Amsterdam and Groningen, cutting current travel times to shreds.

But even before Ockels’ death in 2014 the Superbus had disappeared off of the world’s radar. It’s website is still up, but hasn’t been updated since 2012, with the exception of an obituary for Ockels. And where did the actual prototype go? Dagblad van het Noorden decided to find out last June.

The prototype is currently stored in a warehouse at the University of Delft, where it was developed. A spokesperson for the university told the paper: “The bus is still in a good condition, although it can no longer be driven. We had to remove the batteries for safety reasons, for example.”

Ockels’ widow Joos told the paper that it would take several months to get the bus roadworthy again. She receives regular calls from people and organisations that want to rent the vehicle for a trip.

The bus’ license plate expired in 2014.

Several organisations have expressed interest for exhibiting the Superbus. The Transport Museum in Lelystad however has to first overcome the obstacle of not yet existing, and a plan to store it in a facility of Stichting Wadduurzaam (presumably so that it could be displayed to the public) failed because the storage space would have to be fixed first, which would be too costly.

See also: Dutch spaceman Wubbo Ockels dies.

(Photo by Jan Oosterhuis, some rights reserved)

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May 18, 2014

Dutch spaceman Wubbo Ockels dies

Filed under: History,Sustainability,Technology by Branko Collin @ 2:16 pm

wubbo-ockels-jens-nielsen-pdFormer Dutch astronaut Wubbo Ockels died earlier today in Amsterdam as the result of cancer, NRC writes.

Ockels was born in 1946 in Almelo. In 1985 he spent 7 days in space on board the US space shuttle Challenger which made him the first Dutch astronaut.

In the late 1980s Ockels’ reputation took a dive when he caused havoc with private air planes. On 5 December 1989 his plane taxied to a runway in Lille, France, when an Airbus came in a for a landing. The Airbus totalled Ockels’ plane, but curiously everybody got out alive.

Back on the ground Ockels became a professor of air and space technology at Delft University in 1992. He used this position for a great number of sustainable inventions. Together with his students he worked on projects that often involved converting wind energy into electricity, such as a laddermill and an energy-neutral sailboat. He also worked on the Superbus, bringing the speed and aesthetics of Formula One to the world of public transport.

Ockels’ daughter Gean published the book De Zeven Levens van Wubbo Ockels in 2010 (The Seven Lives of Wubbo Ockels). By then he had escaped death five times. And although he had allegedly tweeted he would cheat the grim reaper for a sixth time in combating cancer (“I am Wubbo Ockels, the strange geezer who always finds a way out”), he succumbed to his illness this morning.

(Photo by Jens Nielsen who released it into the public domain)

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June 22, 2012

Kite Power demo by former astronaut Wubbo Ockels

Filed under: Science,Sustainability by Orangemaster @ 11:34 am

Back in 2008 a concert raised money to develop the laddermill, a sustainable invention by former astronaut Wubbo Ockels (shown here), and today Ockel’s Kite Power research group from the Delft University of Technology will be showcasing a wind energy system using kites at the Maasvlakte 2 shore in South Holland.

The Kite Power Team explains that Kite Power is a type of wind energy where a radiographically controlled kite generates electricity. A single cable attached to the kite is pulled and released from the base station every two minutes, spinning a drum that in turn powers a generator. Pulling the kite takes energy, but less than it is generated. The kite can fly up to 900 metres and be used to generate electricity fully automatically, which is its major asset.

(Link:, Photo of Wubbo Ockels courtesy of Emmanuelle)

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April 10, 2011

Superbus gets shown to the press

Filed under: Automobiles by Branko Collin @ 2:36 pm

On April 4 former astronaut Wubbo Ockels showcased his Superbus to the press at a former air strip near Leiden.

For those of you who don’t remember, the Superbus is a bus shaped like a race car. Its top speed is 250 kph, to be reached in custom bus lanes. Its aerodynamic shape not only allows it to go fast, but apparently also makes it energy efficient. It can carry up to 23 passengers.

The Superbus prototype is on display at the 59th UITP Congress & Exhibition in Dubai starting today. A feasibility study has shown that the Superbus might be the most efficient public transport option between Amsterdam and Groningen, a distance of 180 kilometres that nevertheless takes two hours by car and even two and a half hours by train. The Dutch government, one of the major backers of the project, is said to have cooled considerably on the Superbus idea, and Ockels now hopes to be able to convince Arabian backers of the usefulness of a fast Abu Dhabi – Dubai connection.

More videos here:

(Video: Youtube /

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July 12, 2010

Sailboat uses wind power to generate electricity

Filed under: Gadgets,General,Sustainability by Branko Collin @ 10:54 am

Well. Well well well. Ah well.

In other news, astronaut-inventor Wubbo Ockels is at it again. For the past five years he has been working on a hybrid, energy-neutral ketch called Ecolution and it is almost ready.

The boat has a diesel engine that drives electric engines that in turn drive the propeller. When the boat is sailing, the process is partly reversed and the propellers generate electrical power which is stored in 10,000 kg of batteries that double as ballast. This Ethereal-like design generates a maximum of 20 kW, and the batteries can store up to 300 kWh, which should be enough to satisfy the hungriest of on-board luxury appliances.

Ecolution is marketed as a sailboat that can be operated by anyone, as computers and electric motors do the heavy lifting.

Anyway, go read the PDF, there’s too much to mention here. The Ecolution will be on display during Hisway 2010 (August) and will then be operated for test runs from Scheveningen until June 2011.

More of Ockel’s inventions:

(Link: Het Kan Wel. Photo: Ecolutions.)

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March 27, 2010

Angel of Death, unemployed prosecuted, Superbus – updates

Filed under: Automobiles,Health by Branko Collin @ 12:29 pm

Here are some interesting updates of past 24 Oranges stories.

* Lucia de Berk, the serial killer seemingly convicted on the basis of flawed statistics, received some good news today. Now that her case has been re-opened, the public prosecutor has asked the court to free her and drop all charges against the former nurse.

In 2004 De Berk, nicknamed Angel of Death, received a life sentence for seven murders and three attempted murders of patients under her care. Rather than proving murders had taken place, the prosecution shopped for natural deaths that could pass for suspicious, and if it turned out that De Berk had been working when the alleged victims died, added them to its list. After statisticians brought their objections to this method to public attention, the supreme court decided to let a lower court re-open the case.

The verdict has been announced for April 14.

* Minister Donner of the department of Social Affairs has been told by parliament to re-open the cases of unemployed entrepreneurs who were accused of fraud and sometimes prosecuted for it by UWV, the same organisation that had been feeding them false information that led to this ‘fraud’ in the first place.

The accused were participating in a work re-integration programme that allowed them to set up their own companies while still receiving benefits during the incubation phase. They received benefits for the difference between hours worked and hours available for work, where UWV initially defined ‘hours worked’ as ‘hours billed.’ However, the law says that non-billable hours also count as ‘hours worked.’

UWV (formerly known as GAK) is a private institute that is tasked with distributing unemployment benefits under the supervision of Donner’s department. When the minister pointed out that opening dossiers of already convicted felons was ‘impossible,’ that only seemed to rub parliament the wrong way, according to NRC.

* The Delft students that designed the eco-friendly Superbus are currently building a working prototype. In 2009, after extensive testing on a track, the chassis was built (see image).

The Superbus is a 15-metre-long vehicle that fits 23 passengers. It drives over a dedicated, cheap, concrete lane and doesn’t use bus stops. Instead, prospective passengers indicate where and when they want to board, and presumably the driver caters to these wishes. The Superbus is electrically powered, using lithium polymer battery packs and regenerative braking. Its top speed is 250 kilometres per hour (155 mph). Top Gear, are you reading this?

(Source photo: Superbus)

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August 5, 2009

André Kuipers to stay half a year in space

Filed under: Science by Branko Collin @ 10:19 am

André Kuipers has been to space before, but according to De Telegraaf (Dutch) this time the Amsterdam medical doctor is scheduled for a half year stay on the ISS as part of expedition 30/31. He should be launched to the space station in a Soyuz TMA space craft (seats three) in December 2010.

Kuipers went to space before as an ESA astronaut on a 10-day trip in 2004 on top of a Soyuz rocket. He was the second Dutch astronaut, following in the footsteps of Wubbo Ockels. I remember his launch rekindled my interest in space exploration back then, and I am only a jaded 41- year-old. Imagine how Dutch kids will respond to seeing a countryman in space.

(Photo: NASA)

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June 24, 2009

Kite your way from Amsterdam to New York in four days

Filed under: Aviation,Gadgets,Science by Branko Collin @ 10:05 am

The vehicle pictured above consists of a kite, a cabin and a keel, and should be able to take you across the Atlantic Ocean. The 157 m2 kite should produce enough power to make you go 90 km/h, the cabin seats two, and the keel makes sure you can actually steer the thing. The only catch is that the Hydrokite so far only exists in the minds of former astronaut and kite nut Wubbo Ockels and ten of his students at the TU Delft.

At 90 km/h you should be able to reach New York from Amsterdam in four days and 1 hour, which would break the old record with three hours, although Kennislink doesn’t say what record that would be (sailing? flying? kiting?).

Laurens Alblas, one of the students, told Kennislink that it will probably “take a couple of years before a control system for kites is developed. But once we have such a system, and assuming we can find sponsors, we will build the Hydrokite and we will try and break the record.”

(Link: Kennislink. Source image: TU Delft)

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August 6, 2008

Jan Akkerman concert on laddermill power

Filed under: Aviation,Music,Science by Branko Collin @ 9:05 am

Dutch guitar giant Jan Akkerman, former astrounaut Wubbo Ockels and Delft University all worked together to come up with this tiny concert in the Stadspark of Groningen last year. The reason? The electrical power was delivered by a prototype of a so-called Laddermill, an invention by Wubbo Ockels that is currently being developed at the University of Delft, and that consists of a chain of kite-wings that act as kites when going up, and as wings when going down.

Laddermills should be able to deliver from kilowatts to megawatts of power, enough to provide neighbourhoods and cities with electricity. According to the Guardian, laddermills are especially useful in The Netherlands, Denmark, the UK and Ireland “thanks to the high-speed jet stream.”

If you’ve never heard of Akkerman before, check YouTube for “focus hocus pocus.”

Via Engadget. See also this TU Delft page.

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March 28, 2008

Superbus gets road trial in June

Filed under: Automobiles,Design by Orangemaster @ 10:26 am

The Superbus, designed by former Dutch astronaut Wubbo Ockels, will get its first road trial on 25 June. The bus, which can woosh by at 250 km/h, is set to trial run on a 27-kilometer stretch of highway between Harlingen and Leeuwarden, Friesland. The highway will of course be closed for the occasion. Ockels announced the trial last Wednesday during a meeting at the head office of transport company Connexxion, one of the sponsors of the Superbus.

And yes, the Superbus does look like the famous alien designed by the H.R. Giger.

Read more about the Superbus project.


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