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Bladon Jets, SR Drives and Jaguar Land Rover Win Funding for Gas Turbine Electric Vehicle Project

Prototype of a Bladon Micro-Jet engine. Click to enlarge.

A consortium led by micro gas turbine company Bladon Jets recently secured investment from the UK Technology Strategy Board to develop an Ultra Lightweight Range Extender (ULRE) for next-generation electric vehicles. Total project cost is £2,206,784, with the TSB providing £1,103,392 (US$1.8 million). (Earlier post.)

The objective of the consortium, which includes luxury car maker Jaguar Land Rover and leading electrical machine company SR Drives (earlier post), is to produce the first commercially viable gas turbine generator designed specifically for automotive applications. Jaguar Land Rover is now part of Tata Motors.

The ULRE will incorporate a Bladon Jets patented, axial flow gas turbine engine coupled to a high-speed generator utilizing SR Drives’ proprietary switched reluctance technology. Design of the ULRE’s packaging for vehicle integration will be overseen by Jaguar Land Rover, which has earlier organizational experience with automotive turbines; Rover produced a series of gas turbine cars in the 1950s and ‘60s.

Bladon Micro-Jet Engines are 100% axial-flow, gas turbine engines for use in a variety of applications. Key features include:

  • High efficiency multistage axial-flow compressor
  • Clean burn annular combustion chamber
  • High temperature axial flow turbine
  • Oil-less carbon-air bearing system
  • One moving part

Bladon suggests that in an hybrid vehicle application, with no water-cooling system, oil or catalytic converter, the Micro-Jet engine can provide vehicle weight savings of up to 15%—with a consequent reduction in fuel consumption and carbon emissions—compared to a piston engine. Further environmental benefits will be gained from its fast warm up (a few seconds, as opposed to several minutes for a conventional engine), cleaner combustion and lower manufacturing energy requirements, the company says.

One prototype—the BJ-300-P—weighs 4 lbs, is 4 inches in diameter by 12 inches in length, and delivers 27 lbf (120 N) of thrust. With a speed of 90,000 rpm, the prototype features a 5-stage axial flow compressor and a 1-stage axial flow turbine.

Bladon Jets’ patented manufacturing process enables the production of axial-flow compressors and turbines in smaller sizes than has previously been possible and can be used to bring about improvements in performance, efficiency and reliability of any size of gas-turbine engine or turbo-molecular pump, according to the company. In addition, the process significantly reduces the development time and manufacturing costs for new engines.

One piece integrally-bladed turbine components can be manufactured in virtually any profile, with varying section, edge radii and taper from root to tip and from any metal/alloy (including: aluminium alloys, nickel alloys, stainless steel and aerospace grades of titanium). Improved performance and efficiency is achieved by closer tolerances and reduced hub to tip ratios. Improved reliability is due to stress free machining from solid material and reduced inertial mass.

The basic switched reluctance SR Drive system comprises a simple brushless motor with a dedicated electronic controller. Torque is produced by the magnetic attraction of a steel rotor to stator electromagnets. No permanent magnets are needed, and the rotor carries no “squirrel cage” or windings. Properly designed and controlled, the SR motor can yield high efficiency across a very wide range of load conditions,

The SR Drives Group, which participated in the TIGERS project (earlier post), is based on a single site in Harrogate UK and comprises two operating companies: Switched Reluctance Drives Ltd (SRDL), and SR Drives Manufacturing Ltd (SRDML). Both companies are wholly owned subsidiaries of Emerson Electric Co of St Louis, Missouri—the world’s largest manufacturer of electric motors.

SR Drive has engaged in several hybrid drive projects in the past, including a collaboration with Green Propulsion, a Belgian company, to develop two switched reluctance motor-generators for a hybrid power-train project designed to cut carbon emissions in vehicles such as buses and waste collection vehicles.

Backing for the project was secured in a £15-million funding competition organized by the Technology Strategy Board to support the advancement of the mass adoption of low carbon vehicles and is a key part of its wider program to stimulate technology-enabled innovation and to help boost UK growth and productivity.

ETV Motors. In mid-2009, Israeli startup ETV Motors Ltd. (ETVM) completed a proof-of-concept test of its Range-Extended Electric Vehicle (REEV) architecture using a gas microturbine for the range-extending generator. The company had closed a $12M Series A round in April 2009. (Earlier post.)


Thomas Lankester


Forget range extending electrics, at 10cm wide and 30cm long one of these could be strapped to by bike rack. 120N thrust - it would bring a whole new meaning to the term 'push-bike'...


What does '27 lbf (120 N) of thrust. With a speed of 90,000 rpm' mean in track able horsepower?


"weight savings of up to 15%"

Saturn did that with a space frame and polymer panels.
They better get a recuperater on the exhaust or they are going to melt some bumpers.


They are going to have to give back some of that weight and space savings with thermal and acoustic insulation. I like the idea of a recuperator and cogeneration, but I've never heard of a good, very compact, cogeneration system. How efficient would such a system be at converting gasoline to KwH?


I don't know, I suspected that they will spend so much on this that there will be nothing left for anything else anyway.


Obviously,this is just another project that is not likely to materialize into anything useful.How efficient are small turbines, how about the noise issues,the heat issues?. The solutions to shielding and insulating these turbines would likely add more weight than what they initially thought they were gaining.A mini two stroke engine or even a mini rotary engine could be more efficient and would present less challenge in terms of noise and heat generation.Well, it is called a project,a lot of these projects just die as a PROJECT.
Hey guy! An idea just popped into my head, how about a rocket engine as a range extender???


an old concept that's been explored thoroughly time and again by competent companies with real interest in producing hardware. Unfortunately, the problems are basically the same. Gas turbines are good for power density, which is important for applicaitons where size and weight are paramount. They can also be quiet low in emissions over a variety of fuel types, but efficiency is only good in a very narrow operating region and only when you start to get to machines that are closer to 1MW in size. Something in the <100kw range will struggle to break 35% BTE, even with aerospace materials and a sizable recuperator. With automotive grade materials, <30% is probably more likely. This isn't horrible, but it doesn't offer a compelling reason to go after it. A narrow speed range naturally aspirated gasoline reciprocating engine can get to +30% BTE without breaking a sweat or the bank. Even if you beleive that a recuperated gas turbine will be smaller and lighter, this just isn't that important in the automotive industry. Sure, people want less size and weight, but they aren't really willing to due much to go after it. Its too bad that good money is being wasted rehashing old concepts whose fundamental flaws have yet to be addressed. I'd rather invest in high risk high reward technologies, or push the state of the art in proven solutions.



As you have mentioned, there are lots of engine designs that would work well for range extenders. The whole game changes when you have an alternator load profile only.

Roger Pham

Certainly, small gas turbines are not known for their efficiency. 25% is all that can be expected. For simplicity and cost reduction, small gas turbines use single-stage centrifugal compressor and radial turbine. This micro gas turbine uses multi-stage axial compressor and turbine which incurs higher complexity and expense, thus further reduces the credibility of this project.

I'm still waiting the progress report on the disc-wave microturbine as PHEV range extender capable of producing compression, combustion and expansion all in one single disc, thus greatly reducing size, weight and cost.


I have read about the disc wave device in several papers, I am still not convinced, but that is just me.

Jeremy Koudelka

Cool factor 10 million - everything seems awesome wicked fresh when there is no real precedent to stand on. For the electric side of things - makes intuitive sense but at this scale and with a single turbine stage and axial flow - if you break 15 percent efficiency - don't ever stop in traffic or the bottom side of your car will catch fire. We had a chance to run a 60's Rover Gas Turbine - we loaded that sucker down until the exhaust was glowing - best we got out of it was 5 percent thermal efficiency .. good luck.

gotto besaid

Ford produce an turbine experimental car in the 60 to 70s and two problems - melted the cars behind and with the high temps was a fire risk.
Unless the exhaust is used in waist heat recovery such as steam generation it is totally a waste of time as turbines use lots of air flow and with the correct ratio of fuel to air, means lots of fuel. It must be about the fuel in = work done.
I have been involved with turbine generators for over 20 years and never seen one that gives better total fuel economy than a diesel gen set.(this includes the latest micro turbines)
They have other benefits like, cleaner burning and higher thermal efficiency, low weight, reliability and quicker operational response & starting.
But some one above some discussed the work efficiency compared to the thermal efficiency. At the end of the day It's performing the work NOTHING ELSE.
But I'm certain some scientist who has not read history is convinced some banker to part with the money for research, On had they read history and found easy money. why are old marine engineers so skeptical.

gotto besaid

Here we go again a project to raise money without any end of the line usability. Yes turbines have a very efficent combustion process and have a large amont of power to weight ration but they use a LOT OF Fuel compaired to a less inefficent combustion process intenal combuction engine.
Simple just look at the waist heat output.
Why dont our so called smart young engineers acturally studdy the past so they dont make the same mistakes twice.
Great for planes Power to weight ratio, great for quick responce high power generators, rubbish for cars.
High fire risk, high noise = more weight in containment, high usage of fuels = large storage requirements, can use multi fuels = complex designs
dave mc

Henry Gibson

Automobiles are seldom an engineered device they are works of art seeking buyers. These turbines are at least very interesting and they now have beeen demonstrated. ..HG..

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