As car manufacturers struggle to achieve a desirable range from their electric vehicles, Jaguar-Land Rover and a consortium of UK technology companies may have found a solution - in the form of a new turbine-powered range extender.
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The turbine-based range extender uses a small jet turbine capable of burning a wide range of fuels to generate electricity and in turn extend the range of their electric vehicles. JLR, together with Bladon Jets and SR Drives, won approximately AUD$2 million in funding this week from the UK's Technology Strategy Board to develop the technology.

Advantages of the axial-flow micro turbine technology include compact size, light weight, and low cost. While turbines have proven unrealistic for primary drive systems in personal vehicles due to a lack of low-end torque, noise, expense, and high fuel consumption, using a tiny unit to provide on-board recharging of electric batteries appears to be a legitimate solution.

JLR's predecessor Rover Company dabbled in jet-powered cars in the 1950s, including the JET1 (pictured above), the first ever jet-powered passenger car. The car was capable of 142km/h at 50,000 rpm, and could run on petrol, paraffin, and diesel. The JET1 concept spawned a race car developed with BRM Formula One that race legend Graham Hill co-drove at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, averaging almost 174km/h and topping out at 230km/h. The technology proved too inefficient and expensive for production-car use, however.

The consortium of companies behind the micro-turbine tech says it can save weight and reduce CO2 emissions (slightly) over a conventional petrol-powered range-extending piston engine. Bladon Jets, developer of the micro turbine, says the engine is just 5 per cent of the size, weight and parts count of a typical piston engine.

It is estimated that it will be between five and 15 years before we see the technology in road-going vehicles.

With Motor Authority