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Capstone Turbine To Unveil Prototype Microturbine Range-Extended Electric Supercar at LA Auto Show

The CMT-380. Click to enlarge.

Capstone Turbine Corporation is introducing a prototype range-extended electric supercar using one of its 30 kW C30 microturbines as the generator unit. The CMT-380, currently in the design and test phase, is being developed in partnership with Electronic Arts Chief Creative Director Richard Hilleman.

The CMT-380 features a lithium-polymer battery pack that supports an all-electric range of up to 80 miles. When the batteries reach a predetermined state of discharge, the Capstone C30 microturbine fires up and recharges the batteries on the fly to extend the driving range up to 500 miles.

The prototype hybrid electric supercar with microturbine technology, based on a Factory Five Racing GTM body, will accelerate from 0-60 mph in 3.9 seconds and has a top speed of 150 mph. The CMT-380 will debut at the LA Auto Show 2-13 December.

The concept for the high-performance hybrid electric microturbine vehicle was developed by Electronic Arts Chief Creative Director Richard Hilleman, creator of popular video games, with support from Capstone Turbine.

Capstone’s CMT-380 is just now finishing up the conceptual design and first article testing stage. We plan to finalize very soon a limited production plan, in part, based on interest received at the LA Auto Show. We anticipate customers will be a select group of individuals who appreciate its many innovative high-performance and high-technology driving characteristics, long driving range and ultra-low emissions.

—Darren Jamison, Capstone President and CEO

Capstone’s 30 kW microturbines have been installed in hybrid electric buses, trolleys and transit shuttles around the world. The C-30 microturbine in the CMT-380 features an electric generator and turbine components mounted on a single shaft, which is supported by air bearings. No oil or other lubricants are needed, so maintenance is extremely low and the need to dispose of hazardous materials is eliminated.

A patented combustion system achieves extremely low exhaust emissions that do not require expensive exhaust after treatment to meet stringent California Air Resources Board and EPA 2010 requirements. A patented recuperator (air-to-air heat exchanger) extracts energy from the exhaust stream and recycles it to preheat air coming into the combustion chamber, thus increasing efficiency.

Earlier this year, a C30 liquid-fueled microturbine was successfully integrated into a Ford S-Max people carrier in the United Kingdom by Langford Performance Engineering Ltd. (Earlier post.)

Although it is not in Capstone's business plan to start manufacturing complete cars, the limited production CMT-380 and Langford Whisper hybrid demonstration vehicle are intended to showcase the technology and demonstrate value proposition of microturbines as electric vehicle range extenders. Both Capstone and Langford have been in discussions with automotive industry companies, and these concept and demonstration vehicles help showcase the technology and generate public awareness of the benefits of microturbine technology.

—Darren Jamison

(ETVM), an Israeli start-up, is also developing a range-extended electric vehicle (REEV) technology combining a novel dual-power micro-turbine and a new high-voltage lithium-ion battery chemistry. That company closed a US$12-million Series A investment round in April, led by The Quercus Trust of Newport Beach, California. New York-based 21Ventures LLC co-invested. (Earlier post.)

Capstone has shipped more than 5,000 microturbines worldwide which are able to produce energy ranging from 30 kilowatts up to 5 megawatts and are supplying power at sites around the world, including office buildings, hospitals, hotels, universities, oil and gas applications, landfills, waste water treatment plants, farm digesters, industrial manufacturing operations and others.

Capstone microturbines can run on a variety of fuels, including natural gas, waste methane from landfills, biodiesel, diesel, kerosene and propane. Microturbine efficiency increases when used in Combined Heat and Power (CHP) and Combined Cooling Heat and Power (CCHP) applications that utilize waste heat energy produced by the microturbines to recapture and heat water or buildings, or run through an absorption chiller to create air conditioning.

DOE and BIRD Grants. Separately, Capstone announced that it received notice of grant awards from the US Department of Energy (DOE) and from Israel’s Binational Industrial Research and Development (BIRD) Foundation to participate in two separate clean energy product development projects valued in excess of $3 million.

  • Capstone Flexible Fuel Microturbine. The first DOE grant is to develop a more fuel flexible microturbine capable of operating on a wider variety of biofuels—mostly on syngas produced by gasifying from biomass feedstock. The two-year project will total almost $3.8 million, with the DOE supporting the project with $2.5 million which includes the support of Argonne National Laboratory. Capstone is the prime contractor for this project and will rely on support from Argonne National Laboratory, University of California at Irvine, and Packer Engineering, Inc.

    The project will focus on both the development of a clean syngas combustion system for the Capstone microturbine and a demonstration phase of this new microturbine using the fuel output of a farm waste gasifier being developed by Packer Engineering under a separate US Department of Agriculture grant.

    Argonne will characterize the output of the Packer gasifier for a variety of feed stocks and will host the demonstration phase of the microturbine and gasifier system. The University of California at Irvine and Argonne will assist Capstone in the development and testing of the fuel delivery system for the microturbine. Capstone will provide the design and production expertise for the new fuel delivery system and will manufacture the new syngas microturbine product for sale to the general market. The initial focus is on Capstone’s C65 microturbine with integral heat recovery to achieve high overall efficiency as well as low emissions.

  • Microturbine Powered Solar Concentrator System. The US DOE and BIRD selected a product development effort by Capstone Turbine and Israel’s HelioFocus Ltd. The award of up to $800,000 is to further the development and commercialize a microturbine to produce electric power from concentrated solar energy.

    HelioFocus has previously developed a proprietary solar receiver to convert concentrated solar energy into superheated air. That superheated air will be used to drive a specially-designed externally fired C65 Capstone microturbine to produce efficient solar power. The system will be designed with the option to use natural gas to provide continuous power to supplement the solar energy when it is not available.

Both of these awards are subject to completion and execution of contracts and sub-contracts with the various parties involved in carrying out the product development programs. Failure to complete these agreements could preclude Capstone from participating in one or both awards.


Will S

I'm curious to see what efficiency they will achieve with this combination.

I'm also wondering about the combustion specifics of biodiesel in these units - anyone have any insights?


What is the going cost of the compact 30KW unit?


This should make Henry happy.


The good news is the turbine uses air foil bearing technology so that no oil lubriction is necessary.This reduces frictional losses and does away with maintenance for the lubrication system.

Because it's a samll turbine leakage losses around the compressor impeller are an issue. To minimize these losses requires very close tolerances between the compressor and turbine rotating components and their respective casings.

Wonder if they are using ceramic materials in the hot section as in some Japanese manufactured turbo chargers?


Getting rid of the recuperator might make this an ideal power plant for experimental aircraft builders.


Microtubrines have been in use for small scale and model airplanes for some time now, heck there is videos of people strapping them to wings and boots and flying! Look up rocketbird and Jetman if you don't believe me. A air-recuperated micro-turbine has got efficiencies up to 33%, which makes them more efficient than gasoline but not as efficient as some diesel engines.


The 30 kW Capstone unit is only about 26% efficient at best, so the Volt will probably beat this car for extended-range efficiency.  However, it's hard to beat the turbine for lightness.


What I want to know is will it make a cool noise, and will flames come out the back on afterburner?

This is about a cool e-sportscar, so it might as well.
The last thing you want is a worthy Renault 1.5L diesel in there.
Something a bit crazy for the crazy guys who will buy this.


In mass production, these turbines should be a good bit cheaper than conventional ICEs. The tolerances don't have to be any tighter than a normal engine.

Nick Lyons

Watch out, Tesla--the limited market for such expensive 'green' toys is going to get crowded.

Peace Hugger

This will be the new macho car, the one to show off at the beach and nightclubs.


Would a microturbine like this have an efficiency advantage over a petrol or even a diesel engine if it is used for recharge only and runs at its optimal level to do so?

A modern diesel may have an efficiency advantage on paper but isn't this spoiled by the nature and complexity of real-world driving, with many different engine loads?

If this turbine is relatively light, simple and compact, can be built cheaply enough, is run at the most efficient point, and can run on flexible fuels including future biofuels, then it seems like the best way to extend EV range in the absence of new super-battery architectures.

I'm not an engineer, so feel free to crush me if I'm on the wrong path!


Biff makes an excellent point. Also, there is a very fair chance that the additional thermal efficiency offered by a diesel or an atkinson cycle internal combustion engine would be offset by the additional weight and bulk of such engines and their emissions controls when compared to a turbine.


Diesels beat 40% efficiency pretty easily; Otto-cycle engines with DI are very close.  Either can beat the Capstone without trying.  Part-throttle efficiency isn't going to matter for a PHEV; it matters less and less even for hybrids like the Prius.

If the Capstone turbine can eliminate emissions-certification headaches, that's probably going to outweigh efficiency.


Can the batteries really absorb at 30 kW? Or is it assumed that the engine is using most of that power?


E.P. is right, it is hard to beat the power to weight ratio of a turbine. If super cars are to have a good power to weight as well, a turbine helps. The weight of the batteries would be a big deal, but this looks like a proof of concept, so who knows if anyone will actually build some.

"Capstone has shipped more than 5,000 microturbines worldwide.."

It sounds like they would like to make that number closer to 50,000 by getting into the automobile OEM business. We will see how all this turns out.



What you are talking about and disturbing other people. In real world situation ICE engine including diesel never achieving more that 25% efficiency. It is theoretical limit. The same is with capstone turbine. 40% efficiency can be achieved by 150 kW diesel power generation unit (Caterpilar) connected directly to the grid without load regulation.



Diesel higher millage because of higher fuel calorific value (30%).

Thomas Pedersen

I had the pleasure of fiddling around with a 100 kW Capstone microGT some 8 years ago. Back then the cost was $100,000 and efficiency below 30%. The size was about the size of a small car... Well, that was the external cover. The central turbocharger was quite small. The power conversion unit was big and heavy and I suspect contributed greatly to the overall cost. As did the recuperator. Btw. the power converter was for DC->AC...

My suggestion, get rid of the recuperator and be happy with 20% efficiency from a unit that burns everything and is light and compact, which is important for all those miles driven on power from the grid.

I still think I'd prefer a small diesel, like the 0.8 litre 2 cylinder in the VW 1L.


Maybe for a sports car a GT is preferable..?

Darius: Diesel has 11% higher calorific value (per volume) than gasoline. The remaining 20%pts up to the usual 30% higher efficiency comes from better thermodynamical cycle efficiency.


It sounds like you can run diesel in this turbine, which makes fueling station access easier. With the range extender configuration, it would be good to compare range and performance with conventional diesels.


Thomas Pedersen,

Thank you for correction. Ethanol is 30% less calorific value. But anyway the car diesel engine efficiency is around 20%. Average ICE efficiency 15%. If somebody talks about 40% efficiency - it is apples and oranges comparison method.


When comparing efficiencies, it is important to compare apples to apples.

Conventional arrangement (engine->wheels, lot's of partial load)
Diesel Engine>Gasoline Engine>Turbine

PHEV arrangement (engine->generator->battery->motor->wheels, genset full load)
Diesel Engine>Gasoline Engine>Turbine

However, if the turbine is used in a PHEV (thus always operating at full load) and a diesel/gasoline engine is used in a conventional drivetrain, then there's a good chance:
Turbine>Diesel Engine>Gasoline Engine

EP makes a really good point about emissions certification. If capstone can standardize and certify 2-3 gensets, then smaller manufacturers can install them without the headache of having to go through emissions certification. IMO, I've always thought that the auto industry would do well to standardize certain components such as a genset, battery sizes and interconnects, motor sizes and mounts, and HVAC components. Kind of like an ATX for vehicles.

Roger Pham

A light-weight turbine without emission problem is a more sensible option in a sport vehicle than a heavier piston engine. However, I would suggest a 50-kW turbine instead of a 30-kW for sustained climbing of long slopes while maintaining at least 60mph to keep up with traffics. That's the level of sustained power that the Volt and the Prius have. I also suggest to do away with the bulky heat recuperation plumbing, since absolute efficiency of the range extender is not too important for a vehicle with 80-mile range PHEV.


50kw turbine...for sustained climbing of long slopes while maintaining at least 60mph to keep up with traffics

Only actually needed if your daily commute is the Pike's Peak run; otherwise you're just lugging around the extra mass for something you'll use once a year or less.


Even GM started looking at the Volt's ability to climb grades. It may be only a one day a year event, but people may not like climbing like a 40 hp VW beetle in third gear when the car costs a lot and is suppose to perform. If is a marketing decision and they need to make the right one.

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