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Jet Assisted Plugin Hybrid
January 6, 2011 10:56 PM   Subscribe

The Chevy Volt plug-in electric goes 40 miles on battery alone, yet can go up to 350 miles. Top speed 100mph. How can you top that?
How about an 80 miles on battery, 500 miles total, and a top speed of 150mph and 0-60 in 3.9 seconds? The gasoline engine is a turbine (also used in jet engines). The Capstone CMT380. Specs (PDF).

Built as a demonstration vehicle to show off its turbine engine, it got so much interest that Capstone has begun plans for limited production of the vehicle.
posted by eye of newt (57 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
I still don't understand why this sort of tech is restricted to exotic cars. What's the reasoning behind that again?

How can someone look at the parking lot outside of the LA Auto Show and not say to themselves 'this needs to be the next BMW' or 'can we put one in a Prius?'
posted by carsonb at 11:06 PM on January 6, 2011


carsonb: my immediate guess would be cost or reliability as a daily driver, but that's based on knowledge of how things differ in exotics in general, not this specifically.

When you're not trying to build something that needs to stay competitive on price against standard consumer cars you can do a lot that wouldn't normally be feasible. When you can put tech into something that can't stand up to nonstop heavy usage without drastically shortening the life of the vehicle, or needing expensive work done, you can do a lot as well.

With this though? Not sure. Could be one of those, or it could be as simple as being easier or less risky to do something a bit different with the small production run of an exotic. If that's the case I suppose the tech could eventually filter down.
posted by Stunt at 11:25 PM on January 6, 2011


I always thought a turbine engine would be ideal for this kind of application. The Volt isn't relying on the gas engine to mechanically drive the wheels, but rather to produce electricity for the battery. A gas turbine engine would be more efficient for this purpose.
posted by psp200 at 11:30 PM on January 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've been waiting for a hybrid with a turbine. It might also be that it's not especially fuzzy about what kind of fuel you feed it. Turbines are like that.
posted by Harald74 at 11:40 PM on January 6, 2011


For other ground vehicles that use turbines, see the T-80 and M1 Abrams main battle tanks.
posted by Harald74 at 11:42 PM on January 6, 2011


not especially fuzzy about what kind of fuel you feed it

OK, I fail at reading. One of the articles clearly stated that...
posted by Harald74 at 11:44 PM on January 6, 2011


I have to drive a 52 mile round trip to work every day (not all of us can use public transportation).
My Chevy Cavalier performs (30mpg).
posted by Mblue at 12:02 AM on January 7, 2011


Volt already had 10000 orders.

no pun intended but the shits hit the fan and we need to start yesterday.
posted by clavdivs at 12:07 AM on January 7, 2011


Hmm. All the press materials about this prototype are about a year old... the company's stock is at about $1 per share, so investors aren't convinced. I'm going to guess that this car making it to production is questionable. The Volt is a real product that can be purchased, so comparing the two isn't really fair.

I've long been curious about turbine power for cars, though. Does consumer (as in, not military) technology exist to muffle turbine noise enough to make it acceptable for street use? Here's a video of the same turbine unit that the press releases mentioned, powering a cooling unit. It's pretty loud there, kinda like a tank or a helicopter turbine. On the plus side, we would get to zoom in futuristic-sounding cars with turbine sounds, like in THX-1138. Which is awesome.
posted by dammitjim at 12:14 AM on January 7, 2011




dammitjim, turbines are expensive, + loud on the interior. Trust me, as an ex-Navy snipe, turbines ore LOUD.
posted by Mblue at 12:26 AM on January 7, 2011


Convert sound to electricity as part of the noise suppression. Maybe sound->heat->power.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:43 AM on January 7, 2011


I see the Wikipedia article on the Chrysler turbine notes that the project foundered on the inability to deal with the high level of nitrogen oxides produced.

"...the turbine generated nitrogen oxides and the challenge of limiting them helped to kill the program."

I imagine 60's emission standards were far laxer than today's. It could well be that meeting emission standards is still too hard a problem
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:54 AM on January 7, 2011



Convert sound to electricity as part of the noise suppression. Maybe sound->heat->power.


The space for the driver is eliminated.
posted by Mblue at 1:09 AM on January 7, 2011


The space for the driver is eliminated.

The market for autonomous cars is just starting to take off. Pretty soon you not only won't have to drive your car, you won't even have to be in it!
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:22 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


The market for autonomous cars is just starting to take off. Pretty soon you not only won't have to drive your car, you won't even have to be in it!

Unless your maid is in a robot union. Asimov rules don't apply if you twist the words into cotton candy.
posted by Mblue at 1:31 AM on January 7, 2011


We should note the 60's turbine car efforts by Chrysler and Rover tried to use the turbine to directly power the vehicle, something turbines suck at.

But, yes, if all you're trying to do is spin at a constant RPM and nearly constant load, something like a turbine should do OK, though I don't know if a turbine is an engine that scales well from plane-size to something which just needs 100 hp to spin an alternator.
posted by maxwelton at 2:00 AM on January 7, 2011


> ...something turbines suck at.

I see what you did there.
posted by mosk at 3:13 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


From that Examiner link:

What is a Microturbine?

Microturbines reduce greenhouse gas emissions and extend the range of state of the art hybrid electric vehicles.


Why thank you for not answering your own question...
posted by pompomtom at 3:30 AM on January 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


pompomtom: yes, I came in here to make the exact same comment. That Examiner page is crap and smells like a puff piece to build interest in the company.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 4:25 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Chevy Volt plug-in electric goes 40 miles on battery alone, yet can go up to 350 miles. Top speed 100mph. How can you top that?

If it were available for purchase anywhere.
posted by DU at 4:29 AM on January 7, 2011


I saw a Volt on the road the other day. Looks like someone beat a Honda CRX with an ugly stick.
posted by exogenous at 4:37 AM on January 7, 2011


If it were available for purchase anywhere.

A Chevy dealer would be the logical place to buy one.
posted by octothorpe at 4:39 AM on January 7, 2011


I almost made the same observation about the Examiner piece. And it has a link to the press release it is a bad rewrite of buried near the bottom. The link says [SOURCE], and goes to this.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:40 AM on January 7, 2011


Looks like someone beat a Honda CRX with an ugly stick.

Maybe GM found some work for some of those Pontiac designers.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:43 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I still don't understand why this sort of tech is restricted to exotic cars.

How many mechanics in your town are trained to work on a hybrid turbine engine?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 4:47 AM on January 7, 2011


A Chevy dealer would be the logical place to buy one.

But not the actual place. From your link: The first shipment of Volts — around 350 vehicles this week — has been sent to California, Texas, New York and Washington, D.C. and should arrive shortly at dealerships.

350 vehicles. For the entire country. That desperately needs a plug-in hybrid car.
posted by DU at 4:54 AM on January 7, 2011


That desperately needs a plug-in hybrid car.

Need does not always equate demand (eg - 2010 election results).

Also a further aspect of this project is the need for added infrastructure development. LA, DC, and other intro cities are putting in electric vehicle charging stations in tandem with the release of these cars. When East Bumblefuck, Arkansas gets EV charging stations then the local Chevy dealer can start selling Volts.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 5:20 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


How many mechanics in your town are trained to work on a hybrid turbine engine?

You mean the manufacturer would have to have a monopoly on service and parts? I can see how they'd hate that.
posted by pompomtom at 5:20 AM on January 7, 2011


No one said you had to live near your dealer, DU. And 350 a week equals 18,200 a year ... granted, that's about half as many as Toyota makes of their Prius (Pria?) in a year. And while you may think the country needs a plug-in hybrid, the rest of the country would apparently rather drive SUVs and pick-up trucks. (I admit, both of those links describe conditions in 2009, not 2011, but I was too lazy to look for more recent numbers.)
posted by crunchland at 5:28 AM on January 7, 2011


oh wait. you didn't say 350 A week. You said 350 THIS week. Never mind.
posted by crunchland at 5:29 AM on January 7, 2011


You mean the manufacturer would have to have a monopoly on service and parts?

That would be true if cars were still made by a single manufacturer who also produces all the parts (in other words made by an "exotic" car brand). Since Henry Ford Ransom Olds brought the "assmebly line" to the auto industry, cars are an assembled mass of parts made by an ever growing number of individual producers.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 5:31 AM on January 7, 2011


I admit, both of those links describe conditions in 2009, not 2011, but I was too lazy to look for more recent numbers.

You mean like these numbers?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 5:33 AM on January 7, 2011


Well, for what its worth, I was at my local Toyota dealership last week, and they told me that they were selling 5-10 Pria a day at that one facility, all that month. Granted, the 0% financing deal and $1000 off sticker for 2010 models might have been the thing that was forcing those numbers. (The financing rate has since climbed to 0.9%.)
posted by crunchland at 5:56 AM on January 7, 2011


Well, it is so uncharacteristic of an auto dealer to exaggerate or stretch the boundaries of what we consider "truth". Next you'll be telling us, Crunchland, that a minister told you you could find salvation through his brand of religion, a politician made a promise to enact legislature that she couldn't actually deliver, and a stripper lead you on!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 6:11 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


How many mechanics in your town are trained to work on a hybrid turbine engine?

The thing is, mechanics rarely work on an engine anymore. Your car's motor should easily go 150K miles without being opened up, and by that point it'll be cheaper to swap in a new engine that to rebuild it. Mechanics do the odd head gasket here and there, but very few will do real internal engine work. The ancillary components for a turbine wouldn't be so foreign to a mechanic that they couldn't work on it with just a little extra training.

My guess is turbines will never take off (har har) in cars. They've got a lot going for them in a hybrid drivetrain where you get past their limited operating range and they're definitely reliable. But, in spite of their relatively simple design, turbine manufacturing is seriously high precision/cost stuff. You want to go nuts on esoteric materials science, go read up on how they make turbine blades. It ain't cheap or easy compared to what's in your Honda.
posted by pjaust at 6:14 AM on January 7, 2011


Well, it is so uncharacteristic of an auto dealer to exaggerate or stretch the boundaries of what we consider "truth".

You know, I'd like to retract my sentiment here. I went back and did the numbers and at 5-10 cars a day that puts your dealer at around 1-3% of the total US Prius sales. While you'd think with 1200 dealers in the US, that would be a staggering figure, but as they are in a large, East coast metro area, that makes them more likely to sell more Pria than a dealer in flyover country, so those numbers aren't that crazy, particularly if taken from a limited period of time.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 6:43 AM on January 7, 2011


How can you top that?

By leaving out the gas engine and making it reasonably priced. I'm not buying a Volt because it would take 30 years to pay for the gas savings on my 20 mi. commute, not because it won't out perform a corvette.
posted by 445supermag at 6:48 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I live in the city and drive so little that an electric car, or even a Prius, makes no sense and would never pay itself off. For the amount that I drive I could own a 1970 Ford Galaxy with a 351 and it wouldn't really effect my gas budget noticeably. High millage cars only make any sense if you live way out in the sprawl and have like a 60 mile round trip every day.
posted by octothorpe at 7:02 AM on January 7, 2011


Turbine engine, you say? Atomic batteries to power!
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:40 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hybrid fossil fuel/electric cars are kind of crappy compromise while the government and industry get their thumbs out of their asses and implement a ubiquitous network of charging posts for full electric cars.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:58 AM on January 7, 2011


Wouldn't you actually get better milage on a conventional small car if you lived 60 miles out in the sprawl? Hybrids are for city-folk that drive a lot of city miles. Of course if city folk are really concerned about the environment they would reduce their footprint even more and walk, bike, or ride public transit, so a hybrid would thus be an indulgence.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:01 AM on January 7, 2011


When do we get optimized (bio)diesel/electric?

Isn't the logical extension of all this something about the size of a chainsaw engine, which sips fuel and produces a steady supply of juice to charge up the on-board batteries and feed the regenerative braking wheel-hub motors and supply other electrical power to the car?
posted by mikelieman at 8:45 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I still don't understand why this sort of tech is restricted to exotic cars.

The only people willing to pay $100,000 or more on a car are the same people who want a car that is very fast, has a very short range, is prone to weird technical problems, only seats two people, and has appeal as a status symbol. This is the perfect market for electric vehicles, since the weight issues make it difficult to make one that seats four but doesn't totally suck (or maybe Tesla and Fisker are just putting it off because they aren't in the mood).
posted by The World Famous at 8:49 AM on January 7, 2011


I still don't understand why this sort of tech is restricted to exotic cars. What's the reasoning behind that again?
posted by carsonb at 11:06 PM on January 6

I would guess that it would be easier to encourage the more costly buy-in of the early adopter with something that looks like it was designed by Pininfarina rather than Pontiac.
posted by spacely_sprocket at 8:49 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


start up car comapnies grow and die by the hundreds as will this one.
posted by clavdivs at 8:55 AM on January 7, 2011


When do we get optimized (bio)diesel/electric?

1998?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:23 AM on January 7, 2011


When do we get optimized (bio)diesel/electric?

Sorry, that was the Ford - apparently the first out of the gate was the Dodge in 1996.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:31 AM on January 7, 2011


Turbine engines small enough for a car don't really need to be specially made, they already exist.

Roll-Royce makes one for helicopters that one company uses (after they've reached their FAA run-time limit) in a 320hp motorcycle.

Turbines kind of suck for cars because, although they're powerful, efficient, and can run on lots of different fuels, they produce power exponentially. That means that you get almost no power when you gun it from a dead stop and there is always some lag when open up the throttle as the turbine spins up. Once it doesn't get into higher RPM ranges though, hold on to your f--king hat.

A turbine/electric hybrid would solve some of those problems. Doesn't an electric generator work at its highest efficiency at the lowest RPM? Would that mean that a diesel/electric would make more sense since diesels produce lots of torque at low RPM?
posted by VTX at 11:40 AM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


A turbine/electric hybrid would solve some of those problems. Doesn't an electric generator work at its highest efficiency at the lowest RPM? Would that mean that a diesel/electric would make more sense since diesels produce lots of torque at low RPM?

Electric generators are most effecient at whatever rpm they are designed for. Electric motors do produce the most torque at 0 rpm, but this is not their most effecient operating area.

A turbine engine is a great power source for a generator. Turbines are most effecient at higher rpms-they consume almost as much fuel at idle as they do at full throttle. When hooked up to a generator you just run them at whatever the generator is designed for and make that full throttle, when the batteries are charged up you shut it off until it is needed again. The biggest problem with turbines (and wankel engines also but not as much) is they suck at throttling across the range needed for passenger car transportation. However they excel at producing power efficient, reliably and with minimal emissions at a given rpm range.

This kind of series hybird is the real car of the future I feel-but that may be 50 years out. A turbine can run on a lot of fuels without modification from crappy junky used fryer grease to high test aviation fuel (if they are designed from the outset for it), this is a huge benefit. They are very efficient and light weight when they can be designed to only run a generator. They can be designed to be replaced as a unit making maintenance a non issue (noone maintains an electic motor or alternator anymore-you go buy a new one and replace the unit). And it gives you a lot of flexiblity in range. You get the benefits of an electric plug in car for around town commuting and the range of a liquid fuel vehicle when you need it for a small price-and probably a net gain over current parralel piston engined hybrids.
posted by bartonlong at 12:08 PM on January 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


crunchland: ...350 a week equals 18,200 a year ... granted, that's about half as many as Toyota makes of their Prius (Pria?) in a year.
Half? But that link says Toyota was building 400K copies per year in 2009. That's nearly 22x our wild guess (18K) at annual Volt production.

Anyone can make a silly math error, that's neither here nor there. But I can see why some watchers are a little skeptical about Chevy's commitment to the Volt. It was initially hyped with impossible and/or meaningless claims (200+ MPG!) that were later dropped, the price is surprisingly high, and the production doesn't even count as "mass" by GM standards.
posted by Western Infidels at 1:16 PM on January 7, 2011


Also turbine-powered.
posted by pyrex at 1:24 PM on January 7, 2011


Hybrid fossil fuel/electric cars are kind of crappy compromise while the government and industry get their thumbs out of their asses and implement a ubiquitous network of charging posts for full electric cars.

Powered by a nationwide network of localized nuclear power plants, yes? So 50% of the electrical energy produced isn't lost in long-haul transmission? Are we still together on this?

Cause otherwise we're just shifting the "non-green-ness" from the car to the the coal burning power plant and the coal mines that feed it.
posted by de void at 1:34 PM on January 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Does consumer (as in, not military) technology exist to muffle turbine noise enough to make it acceptable for street use?

It seems like the military would have just as much interest in a good turbine muffler, and tanks are still pretty loud. Maybe too high pitched?
posted by smackfu at 2:09 PM on January 7, 2011


80-mile range on batteries only? Bah, that's not how you're supposed to build a micro-turbine/electric hybrid super-car.

Cut the batteries down to enough for a 5-mile range or maybe less, and use the saved weight/space to put in a second turbine. And maybe a third, they're pretty small. Only one cycles on at a time in normal driving, the others come into play when you're on a particularly demanding race track, or feel like cruising at 150mph.
posted by sfenders at 3:59 PM on January 7, 2011


Wouldn't you actually get better milage on a conventional small car if you lived 60 miles out in the sprawl? Hybrids are for city-folk that drive a lot of city miles.
This is my experience from using a Civic Hybrid for a while on my 150 km daily commute. I get lower consumption from the Subaru Liberty that I now use. It seems to me that hybrids are at their best when the vehicle is stationary a lot and at their worst when at highway speeds.

A lot also depends on the driver - I've seen a lot of Prius taxis using more fuel than a large six-cylinder car because they are being driven, well, like a taxi.

Plug-in electric cars are, effectively, coal/oil/nuclear powered, except in rare cases where truly environmentally friendly electricity generation is available. When you factor in all the losses in generation and transmission etc (plus the emissions from the power plants), I can't see how they are friendly to the environment at all.
posted by dg at 5:32 PM on January 8, 2011


Jaguar's Hybrid Jet-Powered Concept Car - "Jaguar has developed a hybrid car that runs on gas turbines. The range extended vehicle usually uses four electric motors (one on each wheel) plus a lithium-ion battery pack for propulsion, but can achieve a performance boost from a pair of gas turbines mounted in the rear. Cnet UK reports the car can do 0-60 mph in 3.4 sec. (and 50-90 mph in 2.3 sec.) and reach 205 mph while emitting less CO2 than a Toyota Prius."
posted by kliuless at 8:08 AM on January 13, 2011


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