Wrightspeed Unveils Improved Turbine Range Extender

MAY 19 2015 BY MARK KANE 15

Tandem drive truck with Route powertrain using Fulcrum turbine

Tandem drive truck with Route powertrain using Fulcrum turbine

Wrightspeed announced this month a new range extender for electric vehicles – a turbine generator called Fulcrum.

It has 80 kW of power, weight of 250 lbs (113 kg) and is 30% more efficient than the “existing turbine generators“, which by the way doesn’t tell us how efficient it actually is.

“Fulcrum is a radial inflow, axial turbine, intercooled and recuperated. Fulcrum is a single shaft machine, the generator runs at turbine speed (~100,000 rpm). “

Wrightspeed founder Ian Wright believes that turbines will replace piston engines in extended range EVs.

“Each component of every Wrightspeed powertrain is engineered from the ground up to systematically deliver ideal performance and with the Fulcrum, Wrightspeed now owns 100% of the Intellectual Property of its powertrain products. In Wrightspeed’s range-extended architecture, unlike in parallel hybrid architectures, the Fulcrum will not provide direct propulsion to the drive wheels, but be used to re-charge the battery system. This means that the Fulcrum is only used when it is needed, and can run at the cleanest and most efficient operating point. Weighing in at 250 lbs., the Fulcrum is approximately 1/10th the weight of its piston generator counterparts and it is designed to have a 10,000 hour lifetime. While piston generators rely on catalytic converters to reduce their emissions by 10x to meet ever-increasing California Air Resources Board standards, the Fulcrum turbine generator is so much cleaner, that it meets emissions standards without adding to its weight and complexity.

A two-stage compression process and unique recuperation design make the Fulcrum 30% more efficient than existing turbine generators, while tripling usable power. Its multi-fuel capabilities allow it to burn diesel, CNG, LNG, landfill gases, biodiesel, kerosene, propane, heating oil, and others.  In addition, the Fulcrum will make for a smooth, comfortable ride for drivers and a quiet, clean experience for neighborhoods because of its ultra-low vibration.”

Ian Wright, CEO and founder of Wrightspeed said:

“The automotive industry is in the midst of a fundamental disruption, with electric vehicles merely symbolizing the beginning of the movement. The Fulcrum, together with our range-extended EV architecture, is perfectly suited for achieving maximum efficiency in extremely high-power stop-and-go applications, such as garbage trucks. For many of the same reasons that aviation changed from piston engines to turbines decades ago, we believe turbines will begin to replace piston engines in range-extended electric vehicle applications.”

Source: Wrightspeed via Green Car Congress

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15 Comments on "Wrightspeed Unveils Improved Turbine Range Extender"

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Nix

I tend to ignore these things the same way I tend to ignore battery breakthrough stories. It is just too hard to figure out what new development is actually going to go somewhere, and what is just fodder for investor dollars.

But considering Ian Wright and Wrightspeed’s former connection to Tesla and the creation of the Tesla Roadster, this might be something to pay a little closer attention to.

But it seems a bit short on the statistics. It is rated at 80 kW, but even the i3’s little scooter motor is rated as this:

Electric motor: Output in kW 125

And according to BMW, the entire REX package only adds 265 lbs to the weight of the i3, including the gas tank, etc.

So clearly I’m missing something. Since actual efficiency isn’t listed, I’m guessing that is what I’m missing.

Khai L.

Nix,

You found the electric motor specs, not the motor/generator spec, which is (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BMW_i3):

25 kW 647 cc, two-cylinder generator

So the Fulcrum can generate 3 times the power in a lighter weight engine.

Nix

Ah! That makes more sense. Thanks for the correction.

Armstrr

And the i3 backup is not intended for continuous operation… I wonder how many hours vs wrightspeed’s 10000hr. Apples and oranges.

Bill Guthrie

#airinductionchargingandstoragesystem charges without stopping. Wind powers high output alternator or generator charges battery and powers all electronics and can also cool electric motor with excess air flow.

David Murray

Sounds good. I’d be curious to know how it compares to a piston engine in the following ways:
-size
-weight
-noise
-efficiency
-reliability
-cost

Speculawyer

Isn’t a problem with turbine engines that they are noisy and release really hot exhaust gases and thus could be a bit dangerous as a consumer vehicle? (But they work great as APUs on commercial jets.)

PHEVfan

Generally gas turbines are quieter than ICE, especially with a recuperator but the exhaust is definitely a lot hotter.

HVACman

Parnelli Jones and Andy Granatelli wished they had a bit more range to extend their ride in Andy’s gas turbine.

http://www.autopuzzles.com/Indy1967.htm

Bret

I have always believe micro-turbines would make better range extenders than piston-based ICE. I even owned some Capstone stock for a while.

One thing missing from this story is the cost. Unless it is cost competitive to a piston REx, it’s a non-starter.

Lensman

I tend to ignore these wide-eyed claims that someone has invented a significantly better internal combustion engine. After all, the tech has had well over a century to mature. As David Murray noted above, there are several unanswered questions, which leads me to suspect the tech is limited in ways which Wrightspeed isn’t eager to point out.

However, Wrightspeed is at least a name I recognize. I’ll be interested to see any follow-up to this. My guess, though, is that at best, this will be only a niche product.

Josephus

I could see trucking companies investing in this until economies of scale make it affordable for smaller applications, like cars.

Priusmaniac

Phev with such a turbine can be interesting for very long range vehicles. Not a car but a truck, a boat or an airplane. By the way on such long range vehicles it could be worth it to add a vapor turbine to the system to generate more electricity from the exhaust heat of the thermal turbine. Stationary electricity power plants generally do that already.

PHEVfan

While I applaud Wrightspeed for their efforts, since when does a 110 Hp piston engine generator weigh 1000lbs?

ModernMarvelFan

turbines are usually less efficient than high efficiency gasoline. But it is far more efficient in terms of power/weight ratio and it has the flexibility of the running flex fuels with it. It also has less vibration but cost more to produce.