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