Hydraulic Launch Coasters use pressurized oil to propel a coaster train to high speed in seconds. Swiss ride manufacturers Intamin pioneered Hydraulic Launch technology in the early 2000’s, allowing coasters to reach acceleration and top speeds previously unexperienced. Hydraulic Launch Coasters in the 2000’s set many world records for speed, height and acceleration. Hydraulic Launches tend to be smoother and have consistent acceleration compared to other launch types. Intamin refers to their Hydraulic Launch Coasters as Accelerator Coasters.
How Hydraulic Launch Coasters Work
Hydraulic pumps (#1 on diagram) rapidly pump hydraulic fluid into several accumulators with two separate compartments divided by a piston (#2). As the fluid is pumped into one compartment, compressed gas forms in the other. When the pressurized fluid is released, it drives several motors (#3) which in turn spin a large winch drum (#4). The winch rotates contracting a cable attached to a catch car under the train (#5). As the cable contracts, the train is pulled rapidly along the launch track. The catch car disengages at the end of the launch track and returns to the station while the train completes the circuit.
INTAMIN ACCELERATOR COASTER
The first Hydraulic Launch Coaster was Xcelerator at Knott’s Berry Farm in California, USA. Xcelerator opened on June 22, 2002 and was designed by Intamin. The train launches from 0-82 mph (132 km/h) in 2.3 seconds, crests a vertical 205 ft (62 m) top hat element, and then travels through two over-banked turns before slowing down for its return to the station.
The technology utilized on Xcelerator was tweaked so subsequent Intamin Hydraulic Launch Coasters could go higher, faster and include inversions. These tweaked versions have gone on to set the World Records for both height (Kingda Ka at Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey, USA) and speed (Formula Rossa at Ferrari World Abu Dhabi).
INTAMIN WING COASTER
In 2007 Intamin produced their first Wing Coaster – Furius Baco at PortAventura Park in Spain. Although a very popular coaster with extreme acceleration, the wing style seats make for a rather rough ride and the model has not been reproduced.
See also: Wing Coasters
VEKOMA MOTORBIKE COASTER
The Vekoma versions don’t have the same forces as their Intamin counterparts due to the design, which allows riders to sit atop motorcycles rather than in train cars. However, due to the exposed nature of the motorcycle trains, the Vekomas feel just as forceful as the Intamins.