Gas turbine/electric hybrid?
Lack of fuel economy and pick-up was the principle operational deficiency
of pure turbine power. Might not this be solved by using a gas turbine
intermittently to charge a battery which then drives an electric propulsion
Electric motors develop maximum torque at zero rpm, making for snappy
pickup and eliminating the need for a complex transmission. A battery
stores energy for the motor, with the energy being replaced by a gas
turbine. The turbine need not run much around town for short trips until
the battery runs low on chemical energy and needs recharging. On the open
road, the car is powered principally by the turbine, but since it runs at
its efficient speed, it need not have a large fuel burn in terms of pounds
of fuel per horsepower hour, which the bottom line should yield
efficiencies no worse than a piston engine.
An automotive gas turbine, with waste heat regeneration, used at a constant
speed would be quite efficient. Sizewise, the rotor probably need not be
larger than a kitchen toaster for 80 hp out. Gas turbines also will run on
a wide variety of gaseous and liquid fuels, helping to aleviate the high
cost oil supply situtation. You could run a gas turbine on hydrogen
electrolized from water using wind turbines for a fossil fuel-free
transportation system. Alternatively, you could run a gas turbine on
natural gas, LPG, kerosine, even liquid coal or any other clean burning
As for the high cost of gas turbine engine development and construction,
there are solutions. The development should be by a consortium of
cooperating companies, who will do the research and development and the
government which will finance the project. It will take many billions of
dollars. The government can invest these many billions and later reap
licensing returns during production. Patent protection and enforcement
will allow only those government-licensed companies to produce the patented
power plants. Standardization will keep down the costs. Only one engine
design, in three sizes need be developed: small, medium and large (80, 160
and 320 hp) for various sized passenger vehicles and small trucks.
Manufacturers can distinguish their products by differentiation of their
chassis and body. For instance, Ford can go for round taillamps, GM can
mount tail fins, and Chrysler can put racing stripes down the sides. The
engines will all be the same, Thankfully for the mechanics who now struggle
to service the myriad of makes and models which are all different, but all
do the same simple end function: to power two tons of automobile down the
Costs can also be reduced by recycling the rotors, the most expensive part.
When a car is junked, the rotor can go into a new car. This can be made
legal by statute law. A used rotor will be as good as new one after
inspection and refurbishing. The secret is in the HEPA air cleaner which
will prevents all erosion of the rotor blades due to particular matter
impaction. With a rotor lasting 25 to 50 years, the previously high cost
of gas turbines will be just a footnote in the history of technology.
A diesel hybrid might work just as well and certainly should be considered,
but it doesn't have the desired high-tech sound of a 50,000 rpm whine.