The first serious investigation of using a gas turbine in cars was in 1946 when two engineers, Robert Kafka and Robert Engerstein of Carney Associates, a New York engineering firm, came up with the concept where a unique compact turbine engine design would provide power for a rear wheel drive car. After an article appeared in Popular Science, there was no further work, beyond the paper stage.
In 1950, designer F.R. Bell and Chief Engineer Maurice Wilks from British car manufacturers Rover unveiled the first car powered with a gas turbine engine. The two-seater JET1 had the engine positioned behind the seats, air intake grilles on either side of the car, and exhaust outlets on the top of the tail. During tests, the car reached top speeds of 140 km/h (87 mph), at a turbine speed of 50,000 rpm. The car ran on petrol, paraffin (kerosene) or diesel oil, but fuel consumption problems proved insurmountable for a production car. It is on display at the London Science Museum.
The first turbine powered car built in the US was the GM Firebird I which began evaluations in 1953. While the photos of the Firebird I would indicate that the jet turbine's thrust propelled the car like an aircraft, the turbine in fact drove the rear wheels. The Firebird 1 was never meant as a serious commercial passenger car and was solely built for testing & evaluation and public relation purposes.
Starting in 1954 with a modified Plymouth, the American car manufacturer Chrysler demonstrated several prototype gas turbine-powered cars from the early 1950s through the early 1980s. Chrysler built fifty Chrysler Turbine Cars in 1963 and conducted the only consumer trial of gas turbine-powered cars. Each of their turbines employed a unique rotating recuperator, referred to as a regenerator, that significantly increased efficiency.
In 1954 FIAT unveiled a racing car with a turbine engine called La Turbina. This vehicle looking like an aircraft with wheels, used a unique combination of both jet thrust and the engine driving the wheels. Speeds of 175 m.p.h. were claimed.
The original General Motors Firebird was a series of concept cars developed for the 1953, 1956 and 1959 Motorama auto shows, powered by gas turbines.
Toyota demonstrated several gas turbine powered concept cars such as the Century gas turbine hybrid in 1975, the Sports 800 Gas Turbine Hybrid in 1979 and the GTV in 1985. No production vehicles were made. The GT24 engine was exhibited in 1977 without a vehicle.
The fictional Batmobile is often said to be powered by a gas turbine or a jet engine. The 1960s television show vehicle was said to be powered by a turbine engine, with a parachute braking system. For the 1989 Batman film, the production department built a working turbine vehicle for the Batmobile prop. Its fuel capacity, however, was reportedly only enough for 15 seconds of use at a time.
In the early 1990s Volvo introduced the Volvo Environmental Concept Car(ECC) which was a gas turbine powered hybrid car.
In 1993 General Motors introduced the first commercial gas turbine powered hybrid vehicle—as a limited production run of the EV-1 series hybrid. A Williams International 40 kW turbine drove an alternator which powered the battery-electric powertrain. The turbine design included a recuperator. Later on in 2006 GM went into the EcoJet concept car project with Jay Leno.
At the 2010 Paris Motor Show Jaguar demonstrated its Jaguar C-X75 concept car. This electrically powered supercar has a top speed of 204 mph (328 km/h) and can go from 0 to 62 mph (0 to 100 km/h) in 3.4 seconds. It uses Lithium-ion batteries to power 4 electric motors which combine to produce some 780 bhp. It will do around 100 miles on a single charge of the batteries but in addition it uses a pair of Bladon Micro Gas Turbines to re-charge the batteries extending the range to some 560 miles.
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Famous quotes containing the words cars and/or concept:
“When, at rare intervals, some thought visits one, as perchance he is walking on a railroad, then, indeed, the cars go by without his hearing them. But soon, by some inexorable law, our life goes by and the cars return.”
—Henry David Thoreau (18171862)
“The nearer a conception comes towards finality, the nearer does the dynamic relation, out of which this concept has arisen, draw to a close. To know is to lose.”
—D.H. (David Herbert)