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Velozzi Will Use Capstone Microturbines in Supercar and Crossover Extended Range Electric Vehicles

Velozzi, a Los Angeles-based car designer and manufacturer, will integrate Capstone Turbine’s C65 and C30 microturbines into its electric supercar and a crossover vehicle, respectively. Capstone said that these would be the first production automotive applications of its microturbines, which have been used in buses, trolleys and shuttles.

The Velozzi Supercar will be powered by a 770 hp (574 kW) AC-induction electric motor charged by an on-board Capstone C65 microturbine. The supercar is designed to accelerate from 0-60 mph in just three seconds and reach a top speed of over 200 mph, according to Velozzi. The SOLO will be a lightweight electric crossover with an on-board 30 kW Capstone microturbine that will charge the crossover’s batteries and super capacitors while in operation or at rest. (Earlier post.)

The supercar will be available late this year, while the SOLO will be available in 2011, said Velozzi CEO, Roberto Velozzi.

In November 2009, Capstone introduced 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. (Earlier post.)

Capstone microturbines can run on diesel, bio-diesel, ethanol, methanol, jet fuel, propane and compressed natural gas. The diesel-fueled Capstone microturbine produces ultra-low emissions and requires less maintenance than the traditional combustion engine found in today’s hybrid-electric vehicles. Capstone was also recently awarded a Department of Energy grant to develop a flex fuel turbine that will operate on agricultural syngas and hydrogen.

According to Velozzi, the cars will operate on 100% battery power in zero-emissions mode for a range of up to 200 miles. Then, when the batteries reach a pre-determined state of discharge, the Capstone microturbine will recharge the batteries on the fly to extend the driving range up to 1,000 miles.

Velozzi is emphasizing the use of lightweight materials and the modularity that lightweight materials can provide. In May 2009, Velozzi announced a partnership with Nanoledge for the development of lightweight and high performance epoxy/carbon fibre body panels. Nanoledge integrated carbon nanotubes into epoxy resin to improve mechanical performance of composites in areas such as crack growth resistance, fatigue resistance, impact resistance and compression resistance without compromises on other properties. Carbon nanotubes can increase the mechanical properties of the components by 40%, improving the parts’ performance while reducing weight.

The company has teamed with a number of world-class OEM suppliers, including Bayer, Bosch, PPG, Nanoledge, Camoplast, Pirelli, Visteon, Worwag, Bradford Industries, Henkel, Ashland, Saminco and Syvex.

Other micro-turbine range extenders. A consortium led by micro gas turbine company Bladon Jets in the UK recently secured investment from the UK Technology Strategy Board (TSB) 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.)

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.)

Commenting on the UK TSB’s funding for gas turbine generator technology development, ETV Motors chief executive Dror Ben David welcomed growing signs of support for automotive microturbines:

When we went public in early 2008 with our plan for a radical rethinking of turbines for hybrid electric vehicles, we were met with skepticism. Less than two years later, we are preparing to release our first prototypes. Hybrid electric vehicles and their plug-in cousins have given way to extended-range electric vehicles, and as a consequence, turbines are being looked at with much more seriousness. We are glad to see companies like Capstone and Bladon Jet continue their developments in this area. We feel that this is another step towards greater energy efficiency and environmental sanity in the motor vehicle world.

It’s widely understood today that when it comes to automobiles, turbine technology has inherent efficiency advantages over internal combustion engines. Turbines win on maintainability, on their lower levels of emissions, on their ability to provide fuel flexibility, and on their capacity for power density optimization.

Given the state of battery technology, all-electric driving is going to impose range anxiety on drivers for some years to come. Range-extender technology like the new on-board microturbines now in development address this issue head on, and offer great promise.

—Dror Ben David

Comments

jzj

Rosen Motors -- the founding company of Capstone microturbines and Pentadyne flywheels -- created a lovely design in the mid-1990's with a microturbine, flywheel, and battery system. This is the same thing, with the flywheel being replaced by ultracaps. But much as I would delight in seeing their success, the same or similar impediments may exist: 1. each component -- motor, controlling electronics, batteries, ultracaps, and now carbon body -- is quite expensive; 2. limited efficiency microturbine (max 28%); 3. space limitations (if the microturbine is inclusive of a recuperator -- and without which efficiency falls even more); and 4. battery weight, if this is truly to travel 200 miles (!) on battery power alone. Even using Tesla-style high-power battery packs and pushing the definition of max distance, that's still probably a 40KWH battery pack @ approx. 800 lbs., 150 lb. motor and 50 lb. controller, and then perhaps 300 lbs. for microturbine, fuel system, generator, and recuperator and something for the ultracaps. (Frankly, with a battery pack that large, I don't know why you'd need ultracaps for power flow either in or out, as the batteries should be able to produce/absorb the needed electricity.) So, in total, over 1300 lbs. for the propulsion system -- and just to throw a price on there, even at some volume given the expense of microturbines and ultracaps the whole system has got to cost over $50K. Add the carbon body, and the balance of the car for top components, and the simple production costs have got to total at least $150K. (Then there's marketing, distribution, sales, service, cost of capital, overhead, etc.: perhaps Velozzi is a nonprofit corporation?) In any event, I love the concept, and I wish them the best of luck. Maybe they want to bite off a little less, and just focus on the big motor for best-in-class performance?

Keith Sartain

There is lots of confusion on Turbine efficiency vs. piston engines. Granted, a piston engine can, in a VERY limited operating range, have higher efficiencies than a turbine, in REAL WORLD usage a Piston engines average efficiency stinks.

For instance, a piston engine when running at wide open throttle at peak torque might be 35% efficient without emissions equipment compared to a peak efficiency of the Capstone around 30%.

But, in real life, most of our driving time is at part throttle (not wide open) where the vacuum robs power. Take in pumping losses, drive line losses, etc. and most piston powered cars have real efficiencies closer to 10% end-to-end.

Any engine, piston or turbine, running continuously near it's peak will have much higher efficiency than a gasoline piston engine in typical car applications.

Multi-Modal Commuter Dude (formerly known as Bike Commuter Dude)

Henry Gibson will be so proud!

jzj

Comparing apples to apples, we are in this instance discussing a genset in a series hybrid used for the express purpose of replenishing the batteries with electricity. Therefore, it seems apt compare by using the highest efficiency mode, as it will only be operating in that generator mode. For such a purpose, it appears fair to use the 28% microturbine (with recuperator) figure (which comes from Capstone's own analysis) and then compare that to other maximum efficiencies, such as up to 40% for TDI diesel. However, that being said, it is also certainly worth noting that the microturbine is clean and multifuel-capable. And, the microturbine is potentially lighter than even a purpose-built TDI diesel generator, and so if it is not regularly used the tradeoff of lighter weight should be considered.

danm

Gotta love the emphasis on lightweight carbon fibre materials. The sooner this technology becomes mainstream the better.

UnnaturallyAspirated

-jzj
you are spot on on both comments. Unless you are hell bent on fuel flexibility, gas turbine in this size as a range extender makes no sense. Additionally, comparng peak gas turbine efficiency to "real world" piston engine efficinecy is a fundamentally flawed arguement. Either you have to assume they both operate at peak load as would make sense in a EREV or over a variety of loads as it they were both the prime mover. In that case, it isn't clear that the gas turbine would be any better as their efficiency falls off rapidly as off design operating points.

To take this discussiona a step further, EREV itself doesn't make much sense right now, at least from a cost, GHG emissions, or foreign resource independence perspective. Batteries are just too costly, bulky, and heavy as you stated. Additionally, Lithium which everyone is banking on all resides in a relatively small portion of the planet. We'll just be trading oil in the middle east for Lithium in South America. Finally, most electrical grids in the world are so dependent on coal and other fossil fuels that wehn you consider their emissions, GHG emissions from electric vehicles would result in a net increase compared to modern ICE powertrains. One of most compelling reasons to invest in EREV is to gain credits towards ZEV requirements in places like California and to be ready when the grid is clean enough and battery technology makes a significant advance.
Advanced in renewable energy sources will change the grid, and technology advances will improve battery cost and power density but it is simply not here yet.

This is effectively the summary of the recent Government/Industry conference hosted by SAE in Wasthington D.C. last week.

sulleny

"Additionally, Lithium which everyone is banking on all resides in a relatively small portion of the planet. We'll just be trading oil in the middle east for Lithium in South America."

http://green.autoblog.com/2009/08/28/lithium-supplies-enough-for-two-million-vehicles-by-2015-easy/

It's recyclable.

Alex Kovnat

With all the talk about carbon dioxide-induced climate change, why do we need cars that can go 200 miles per hour?

ToppaTom

" . . why do we need cars that can go 200 miles per hour?"

To rush all that Lithium up from South America.

HarveyD

TT:

Recyclable high speed light weight electrified vehicles could run a lot cleaner-quieter than our current ICE gas guzzling monsters.

SJC

Some of the engineering is done with recycling in mind. If the assemblies are easily removed and sorted, most of the car can be reused, they all have limited useful service lives.

I looked at some of the lithium battery recycling. Since there is so little of it used in each battery it is not easily done right now. Maybe the large format batteries will be designed with this in mind for the future.

UnnaturallyAspirated

The point about Lithium reserves being held in a relatively small portion of the planet was intended to point out that there economics can be controlled by the supplier due to a general lack of competition. Such is the case of crude oil reserves. The fact that it is recyclable doesn't do much to change this, it just merely extends the length of time before we run out.

Henry Gibson

Yes it is time for more turbines for clean combustion and simpler fuel burning. The batteries are obviously too big and too expensive, but if mass production will make the turbines cheaper it is for the best. Buses have been using the turbines for about ten years now, and perhaps light rail vehicles are next. Cogeneration for all new commercial buildings should be required. I would like to see a small steam electric locomotive with the turbine as the fuel burner. It would be like a modern Kitson-Still locomotive. It can even have a steam turbine instead of pistons. The Turbomotive was a very good and efficient locomotive. But the new one can have simpler electric reverse. ..HG..

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