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Transportation Technology

The Rise and Fall of America's Jet-Powered Car 338

Posted by samzenpus
from the fly-to-work dept.
Pickens writes "The WSJ reports that the automobile designs of the 1950s and 1960s were inspired by the space race and the dawn of jet travel. But one car manufacturer, Chrysler, was bold enough to put a jet engine in an automobile that ran at an astounding 60,000 rpm on any flammable fluid including gasoline, diesel, kerosene, jet fuel, peanut oil, alcohol, tequila, or perfume. Visionary Chrysler designer George Huebner believed that there was plenty to recommend the turbine. People loved the car. In a publicity scheme to promote its 'jet' car, Chrysler commissioned Ghia to handcraft 50 identical car bodies and each car would be lent to a family for a few months and then passed on to another. Chrysler received more than 30,000 requests in 1962 to become test drivers and eventually 203 were chosen who logged more than one million miles (mostly trouble free) in the 50 Ghia prototypes. In the end Chrysler killed the turbine car after OPEC's 1973 oil embargo. 'How different would America be now if we all drove turbine-powered cars? It could have happened. But government interference, shortsighted regulators, and indifferent corporate leaders each played a role in the demise of a program that could have lessened US dependence on Middle East oil.'"
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The Rise and Fall of America's Jet-Powered Car

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  • Turbine (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Geoffrey.landis (926948) on Sunday October 17, 2010 @09:34AM (#33923522) Homepage

    The word, I think, is "turbine" (or even "jet turbine,")-- not "Jet powered".

    How noisy were they?

    • Re:Turbine (Score:5, Informative)

      by lenski (96498) on Sunday October 17, 2010 @09:49AM (#33923584)

      From the comments in the WSJ online, people who rode in them described them as nearly silent.

      • Turbine Motorcycle? (Score:3, Informative)

        by sanman2 (928866)
        But how tolerant would turbines be against the ordinary bumps and shocks of traveling on a road?

        When you have a turbine spinning at high RPM, anything that bumps the damn thing hard enough can make it go out of whack.

        In India, they've been selling a turbine-powered scooter since the 80s, but somebody just took a stationary turbine-generator and fitted into a scooter chassis.

        A turbine-powered motorbike would be easier to develop than a car, and you might get much better acceleration.

        http://www.yo [youtube.com]
        • by MartinSchou (1360093) on Monday October 18, 2010 @02:19AM (#33929588)

          But how tolerant would turbines be against the ordinary bumps and shocks of traveling on a road?

          Not at all. They break the moment they get even a little bump.

          Just look at how fragile the engine is in the turbine powered M1 Abrams! It's so fragile, they never ever take it off road or drive across anything other than pristine asphalt.

    • Re:Turbine (Score:5, Informative)

      by EdZ (755139) on Sunday October 17, 2010 @09:58AM (#33923620)
      "Gas turbine" is the usual term for a turbine that drives via its shaft rather than by its exhaust.
      The problem with a gas turbine is that they have rather poor efficiency. They have an excellent power-to-weight ratio (which is why they're used in aircraft, and why gas turbines are used in helicopters), but their fuel economy, even when used in an electric drive system and always running at the peak efficiency RPM, will never reach that of an average petrol engine, let alone diesel. Add that a diesel engine can run on most (if not all, when correctly filtered and if the engine is tuned for it) of the range of fuels a gas turbine can, it's the better choice for a vehicle that doesn't need to lift it's own weight except when on a gradual incline.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The problem with a gas turbine is that they have rather poor efficiency.

        Yup. When Gas Turbines were new and sexy, everyone and their dog were looking for practical applications. There were gas turbine powered trucks, cars and locomotives. All them suffered from the exact same problem, namely that they drank fuel.

        A gas turbine can only really be considered efficient at full load, but trucks, locomotives and cars are often not at full load. Gas turbines run at a fixed speed, and there is a lower limit on t

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Sulphur (1548251)

          Rover experimented with a gas turbine auto. A heat exchanger* doubled the fuel efficiency, but it was problematic to make.

          http://www.csse.monash.edu.au/~lloyd/tildeLand-Rover/Rover/index.html [monash.edu.au]

          *Think cycles: In the compression cycle you want to remove heat to get more mass compressed, and in the combustion cycle you want to put heat in. A piston engine does not lend itself to heat exchange in combustion.

        • Re:Turbine (Score:4, Interesting)

          by jeti (105266) on Sunday October 17, 2010 @02:47PM (#33925362) Homepage

          But if you integrate a gas turbine into a serial hybrid, you can keep it running at full load until the battery is fully charged and then turn it off. Considering that the first serial hybrid was built before 1900, it's strange that apparently nobody has implemented that combination before.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by tunabomber (259585)
      • Re:Turbine (Score:5, Informative)

        by dogsbreath (730413) on Sunday October 17, 2010 @01:54PM (#33925020)

        They have an excellent power-to-weight ratio (which is why they're used in aircraft, and why gas turbines are used in helicopters), but their fuel economy, even when used in an electric drive system and always running at the peak efficiency RPM, will never reach that of an average petrol engine, let alone diesel.

        Exactly. They make an excellent engine for a race car unless they rewrite the rules to make it impossible to use a turbine.
        http://www.turbinecowboy.com/carstrucksmotorcycles/1967IndyTurbine/ [turbinecowboy.com]

        As to sound levels, one of the biggest complaints against the turbine at Indy was how quiet it was.

        Sigh. That was a great race.

      • by dcavanaugh (248349) on Sunday October 17, 2010 @02:36PM (#33925292) Homepage

        Gearing down from 50,000 rpm to less than 100 is tricky. Helicopters do it, but the transmission is one of the most expensive, failure-prone components in the design. A car would have an even bigger problem.

      • Re:Turbine (Score:5, Insightful)

        by SerpentMage (13390) <ChristianHGross AT yahoo DOT ca> on Sunday October 17, 2010 @02:52PM (#33925402)

        I am going to call BS...

        http://kn.theiet.org/news/sep10/tata-blaydon-jets.cfm [theiet.org]

        This car is more fuel efficient, lower emissions, faster and more powerful than anything ever produced for the commercial road.

        The trick with jet engines is not to run it lower, but use the power to run an electrical engine that can be ramped up and down.

        http://www.bladonjets.com/applications/automotive/ [bladonjets.com]

        "Requiring no water-cooling system, oil or catalytic converter, it will 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. "

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by dj245 (732906)
          Requiring no water-cooling system, oil or catalytic converter, it will 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.

          This is some misleading advertising. Are they seriously proposing to run a turbine at
    • Re:Turbine (Score:5, Informative)

      by sphealey (2855) on Sunday October 17, 2010 @10:00AM (#33923634)

      > How noisy were they?

      Quiet, actually. I was at the Museum of Transport in St. Louis this spring and happened into the auto hall just as they fired up the engine on their turbine car. Having spent a lot of time working with industrial gas turbines, I was surprised at how noisy it wasn't - considerably less noise than a piston engine of equivalent horsepower from that era.

      Quite a lot of smoke though; they had to open up a garage-sized door for ventilation.

      sPh

    • by Geoffrey.landis (926948) on Sunday October 17, 2010 @10:06AM (#33923670) Homepage

      Reading throught the comments, I see it was described as being quite quiet, so apparently noise was not the issue. 11.5 miles per gallon, though, that's not a good number, even by standards of the time. The article starts out "Turbines were the bucking broncos of the engine world: loud and hard to control, gulping vast quantities of fuel and air.". Looks like they solved the noise problem (except for that "turbine whine" described), but the "gulping vast quantities of fuel" wasn't so easily solvable.

      This is the key sentence: "The primary culprit was OPEC's 1973 oil embargo and the panicked response of federal regulators, who set unrealistic standards to limit fuel consumption and air pollution."

      Unrealistic? What exactly does that word mean? All of the car manufacturers managed to meet the fuel efficiency goals: all of them. And, it turns out, it wasn't even really very hard. The pollution goals as well. And its hardly true that "the Environmental Protection Agency required tailpipe emissions to be cleaner than the ambient air." Maybe the "ambient air" in polluted cities. I remember the air in those days-- I'm quite happy to have today's pollution standards, thank you. Twice as many cars in America as there were in 1963, but the air is much cleaner.

      In any case, though, this is just the Wall Street Journal's sliding in a political opinion in the guise of a fact. The cars were made in 1962, and the article states "Most of the cars—46 of them—were destroyed in 1967." I don't think you can blame the OPEC Oil embargo of 1973 for the failure of the design six years previously. Perhaps the WSJ should have paid attention to this sentence: "Yes, turbine engines were expensive to mass produce."

      • by Greyfox (87712) on Sunday October 17, 2010 @10:47AM (#33923880) Homepage Journal
        Yeah, I went to Romania in the late 90s and the city I was in reminded me of Miami without emissions controls. Outside, the gas and diesel fumes were thick and inside everyone smoked. By the time my week there was up, my lungs ached for clean air. I'll be glad to take our "unrealistic air pollution standards," TYVM.
      • by nabsltd (1313397) on Sunday October 17, 2010 @11:16AM (#33924016)

        Looks like they solved the noise problem (except for that "turbine whine" described), but the "gulping vast quantities of fuel" wasn't so easily solvable.

        Today, however, a gas turbine connected to a generator to charge the batteries for a pure-electric drive car might be a feasible solution, as it would allow the turbine to only run at full load, and thus achieve its best efficiencies.

        I suppose a hybid could work, too, again with the turbine only running when the vehicle needs a lot of power, but then you get into transmission losses that you could avoid with a pure electric motor drive.

      • by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Sunday October 17, 2010 @12:52PM (#33924576)

        All of the car manufacturers managed to meet the fuel efficiency goals: all of them. And, it turns out, it wasn't even really very hard.

        Do you know how they did that? They did it by not making enough of certain models to meet demands. For example,do you know why we have SUVs? Because there was a demand for a vehicle that could carry 4-6 people and some cargo. This demand had been met by station wagons, but station wagons were cars and were calculated as part of the original CAFE standards. Auto manufacturers could not meet the demand for station wagons and meet the CAFE standards. SUVs are "trucks" (at least the original ones were) and therefore were not counted as part of the fleet for purposes of CAFE. Minivans were developed for the same purpose. Both minivans and SUVs were developed to get around the CAFE standards because there was a demand for vehicles that if they were under the CAFE standards would have made it impossible for the auto manufacturers to meet those standards.

        • ...if they were under the CAFE standards would have made it impossible for the auto manufacturers to meet those standards.

          ...at the price point where the manufacturers wished to sell them. There is a substantial amount of price elasticity in both the supply and demand for a given model or even a given style of vehicle. If SUVs and passenger minivans had been properly included in CAFE, then sticker prices would have risen until the consumer market shrank to meet the permitted supply. More consumers would have figured out how to make due with acceptably fuel-efficient sedans; for most families (and for pretty well all individuals and couples) the SUV or minivan is a convenient luxury, not a credible necessity.

          Manufacturers, meanwhile, would have been pressured (and incented) to built larger passenger vehicles to better standards of fuel economy, to take advantage of the new market for fuel-efficient medium-large vehicles in the window between CAFE-compliant cars and gas-guzzling, price-prohibitive light trucks. Remember, the nominal purpose for the light-truck loophole in CAFE was not to allow every household a cheap minivan; it was to avoid penalizing businesses (especially small businesses) for whom light trucks were a legitimate requirement for their work. The same goal could - and should - have been achieved through a directed tax deduction/credit, but American automakers were too heavily dependent on their high-margin light trucks, and their lobbyists hobbled CAFE's scope accordingly.

        • by ray-auch (454705) on Sunday October 17, 2010 @06:38PM (#33926744)

          Both minivans and SUVs were developed to get around the CAFE standards because there was a demand for vehicles that if they were under the CAFE standards would have made it impossible for the auto manufacturers to meet those standards

          That "impossible" is not an engineering impossible, but rather a political / can't-be-bothered type of impossible.

          Elsewhere in the world where CAFE-type standards were set a lot higher than the US and without the big loophole (eg. Europe, Japan) there doesn't seem to be any problem satisfying the demand for family vehicles - and median household sizes are pretty similar in EU and US (around 2.5), so family car demand will be also. I have a large 7-seater (7 adult seats not 5+2kid-sized) that you'd probably call "station wagon" or maybe "minivan". It does 50mpg, fully loaded - that's over 40mpg in US gallons.

          Since that would be the large end of the station-wagons, and CAFE is average across the smaller more efficient cars as well, and CAFE standard was 27.5mpg (without using the light-truck loophole), what on earth was the problem ?

          It sure wasn't the US companies being backwards in engineering knowledge - that car of mine is a Ford, and right now I could go out here and buy a Ford with better mpg & CO2 than a Prius. Not in America though, oh no, these cars are strictly not-for-US-market.

          So why does Ford continue to sell the US market inefficient rebadged 1970s stuff ? Because they can, because low US CAFE targets allow them to, and because it makes more profit without needing to invest any money in modernising their US factories or technology.

          Nothing to do with "impossible" and everything to do with "why bother when we can make more money using a loophole to sell old cheap inefficient stuff".

  • by nschubach (922175) on Sunday October 17, 2010 @09:37AM (#33923534) Journal

    There was a recent post on a jet powered concept car... I wouldn't call the idea dead yet.

    http://hardware.slashdot.org/story/10/10/01/0039240/Jaguars-Hybrid-Jet-Powered-Concept-Car?from=rss [slashdot.org]

    • A series hybrid [wikipedia.org] car with turbine generators would rock! People have proposed additional generator modules for series hybrids which can be added as needed for long trips. Turbine modules could be made small, so that they could recharge your vehicle while parked during the day, though this wouldn't be the most efficient use of the fuel. Conversely, one could add additional turbine modules for specific purposes, like towing cargo or driving on very steep roads. Cars would become configurable!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 17, 2010 @09:38AM (#33923542)

    I remember reading about Rover doing experiments with turbines in the 40s.
    linky http://www.rover.org.nz/pages/jet/jet5.htm

  • by Gothmolly (148874)

    Turbines suck at low RPM, have exotic acceleration modes and requirements and only shine at constant speed. What Detroit needed was a hybrid turbine-electric car, either in series or parallel. With today's electric technology, I'm surprised these haven't made a comeback. You'd have the best of both worlds. But with fuel at less than 3 USD per gallon, why bother?

  • It would make your sedan's fuel consumption put an HMMWV to shame. Regular diesel engines can also run on peanut oil. In fact that was the fuel Diesel himself used to demonstrate his engine. Gasoline engines can be easily modified to also run on ethanol. The issue with peanut oil, ethanol, or indeed any other fuel made from biomass is that you cannot make enough fuel to run the cars we use today even if you replaced all current farmland to produce fuel instead. So you propose to solve the problem by increa

    • Actually, no. The higher combustion temps associated with turbines increases fuel efficiency. The thing to do would be to tune the size/output of a small turbine to act as a generator and then use electric motors to propel the car. I suspect this hasn't been done due to the cost/complexity of a small turbine engine rather than a lack of fuel efficiency.

    • by Ironsides (739422)

      Turbines are fuel guzzlers It would make your sedan's fuel consumption put an HMMWV to shame

      You got a source for that? Your standard Gasoline engine is 20-25% efficient. Gas turbines have are over 60% efficient. That's one reason they are used in power plants.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by cheesybagel (670288)

        Gas turbines with that level of efficiency are built using different construction techniques so they can run at a higher temperature. Since it is for a stationary application you can afford making the turbine very heavy. You can also use more fragile ceramics which do not handle the vibrations of a moving vehicle very well. Then they are cooled using water cooling towers. They are basically using a river as a cooling source.

        In a car you cannot use such cooling mechanisms. You basically use air cooling. Y

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Waffle Iron (339739)

        Gas turbines have are over 60% efficient.

        As far as I know, efficiencies that high are only possible in a combined cycle application where you also add a huge steam turbine powered by the exhaust heat of the gas turbine. The gas turbine by itself is not as efficient as a good diesel engine, and gas turbine efficiency scales with size. By definition, an automotive turbine is going to be small and inefficient.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          I can confirm this - a "normal" gas turbine is somewhere in the 25% - 30% efficient range (for producing electricity) however when you add a Heat Recovery Steam Generator (HRSG) on the back side, using the hot air from the turbine, the over-all numbers can jump to 80%+. As it is, I think even the new GE turbines which incorporate an intercooler only reach about 40%, and that is really good.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by SomeKDEUser (1243392)

            Remember, in a thermodynamic cycle, the maximum efficiency you can get is:

            eta = 1-Tcold/Thot (in Kelvin)

            This formula is all you need to know to debunk stupid claims of efficiency of sellers of snake oil thermal systems. In practise, getting 80% of that is really, really good.

            Big turbines are efficient because they run hot, as hot as the materials will allow, in fact [1]. The blades are designed so a cushion of air protects them from the burning gaz. You do not want a turbine running at 2000 C in you car: co

      • Gas turbines are used in peaking power plants because they are able to start up very fast. They almost never are used for base load because their efficency sucks.

    • by vlm (69642)

      It would make your sedan's fuel consumption put an HMMWV to shame.

      Depends where you live. People are used to city/hwy MPG numbers where hwy is about 10 to 20 percent higher than city. With a turbine, and its remarkably poor idle performance, city would end up small fraction of hwy. Of course turbines are more efficient than reciprocating engines and dramatically lighter... but it would still overall be a loss.

      Turbines have the ability (and requirement) to run at crazy fuel/air ratios... The cat converter industry would freak out, not sure if the technology could surviv

  • Not gonna happen (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    What happens to the 60,000 rpm turbine (and associated pieces) in an accident? Not good.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      What happens to the 60,000 rpm turbine (and associated pieces) in an accident?

      I don't know... Maybe about the same as what happens to a 100,000 rpm turbocharger?

      • Re:Not gonna happen (Score:4, Interesting)

        by royallthefourth (1564389) <royallthefourth@gmail.com> on Sunday October 17, 2010 @10:24AM (#33923764)

        A turbocharger is tiny compared to a turbine engine so the energy that would need to dissipate is much much larger and some of it could end up dissipating into your skull.

        • by vlm (69642)

          A turbocharger is tiny compared to a turbine engine so the energy

          Depends how you define tiny. Lots of power flows thru a turbocharger... The whole point of using a turbo to compress your air instead of a supercharger, is the supercharger takes about a fifth of engine crankshaft horsepower at full speed, which a turbo instead extracts from the exhaust. Compressing air takes a lot of power!

          So, its about as dangerous as installing a turbo that is about five times bigger than normal. A scalable and predictable "danger". The scaling factor is about the same ratio as car v

      • Not likely. You are comparing fans designed to blow air into an intake versus fan blades designed as the primary drive of a vehicle. There is a big difference in mass between the two meaning a big difference in kinetic energy being released if a turbocharger blows versus the turbines on a 'jet powered' car. It is probably more like 'maybe about the same as what happens to a jet airplane when a fan blade breaks'; which is usually the utter destruction of the engine and a good chunk of the vehicle. Ever seen
    • by couchslug (175151)

      Depends on the diameter of the turbine and how stout a band is designed into the case. Turbine gensets have been around for many decades in the commercial and military aircraft world.

      Modern materials like those used in AFV spall liners are plenty adequate to contain any frags.

  • Because if it wasn't for "government interference", we'd have burned through all the world's oil supply on silly jet cars. /encourages more "government interference"

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Did you even bother reading the summary? This thing could run on any flammable liquid (with varying levels of efficiency.) It could have been a strong candidate for reducing oil consumption, not "burning through" it.
  • Reediculous idea (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Ancient_Hacker (751168) on Sunday October 17, 2010 @09:56AM (#33923606)

    Gas turbines are very poorly suited for automobile use.

    They're extremely expensive, have mediocre MPG, don't respond quickly to the gas pedal, and the gyroscopic effects are problematic.

    That's why they didn't catch on-- no need to look for conspiracies.

  • gasoline, diesel, kerosene, jet fuel, peanut oil, alcohol, tequila, or perfume

    Do you get a lemon or lime with that?

    ... and some salt?

  • by goldstein (705041) on Sunday October 17, 2010 @09:57AM (#33923614)
    The idea that the dependence on "Middle East oil" could have been lessened is seriously misleading. Gas turbine technology is best suited to very large installations. In an internal combustion engine, one needs a high compression ratio to get good thermal efficiency. In a gas turbine engine, this is most easily achieved by making a (very) large engine that runs at a relatively constant speed. There are major practical problems in making small high compression gas turbines (among other things, conventional axial or centrifugal flow compressors do not scale well to small sizes). The result is very poor fuel economy. Chrysler wasn't the only manufacturer to build a gas turbine powered car. Rover built one in the 1950's. At best these efforts demonstrated passable, but not exceptional performance coupled with VERY high fuel consumption. This may not have seemed like a big issue when oil was a few dollars a barrel. It would be completely unacceptable now, even if one allows for the flexibility of being able to use various types of fuels. There just isn't enough of any reasonable alternative fuel to operate existing private and commercial vehicle fleets, especially if there is a massive fuel consumption penalty.
    • by sphealey (2855)

      > There are major practical problems in making small high compression gas turbines
      > (among other things, conventional axial or centrifugal flow compressors do not
      > scale well to small sizes). The result is very poor fuel economy. Chrysler wasn't
      > the only manufacturer to build a gas turbine powered car. Rover built one in the
      > 1950's. At best these efforts demonstrated passable, but not exceptional performance
      > coupled with VERY high fuel consumption.

      Not just automobile-sized turbines eit

    • US oil imports stats (Score:3, Interesting)

      by majid_aldo (812530)

      not to mention US oil imports from the middle east has never exceeded 20%

      http://www.allthebestbits.net/wp-content/uploads/2008/09/us-oil-imports3.gif [allthebestbits.net]

  • http://www.capstoneturbine.com/prodsol/ [capstoneturbine.com]

    I'm not rich, but some /.ers are. Hang one of these in a hybrid and have at it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 17, 2010 @10:09AM (#33923682)

    "But government interference, shortsighted regulators, and indifferent corporate leaders..."????? How about technological issues like hot exhaust gasses coming out the tail of the engine?

    Don't you think that, if it actually were technologically feasible and Chrysler was gonna make a bundle of money, that it would happen. I just don't understand how government gets blamed for all the failures of business.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Don't you think that, if it actually were technologically feasible and Chrysler was gonna make a bundle of money, that it would happen. I just don't understand how government gets blamed for all the failures of business.

      Not necessarily. It is quite possible to make a bundle of money, but government interference causes the 'bundle of money' to be of a similar or smaller size than the 'bundle of money' a company could make on another venture.

      Consider the Corn industry in the US. Farmers DON'T plant other crops not because they wouldn't make money selling them, but because they can make more money by planting corn. It doesn't mean that corn is the better product, it's simply a factor that $x in yields $y out for corn, and

  • A let-down (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ickleberry (864871) <web@pineapple.vg> on Sunday October 17, 2010 @10:11AM (#33923702) Homepage
    Currently the trend seems to be towards low-speed driverless centrally controlled 'people pods' rather than anything actually exciting.

    Who would have thought we would have diverged from the path of making continually more badass cars towards trying to develop boring things such as the Google ATNMBL [core77.com].

    I suppose whats going on with cars now is a similar to the of taking control from users as in "curated computing". The Chrysler turbine car is a genuinely cool piece of machine, probably my favourite car of all time, I really wouldnt mind seeing it back in limited production despite its lack of practicality.

    Turbine technology isn't a complete waste however. A an electric car could have a removable ~30kW microturbine + fuel tank unit for long journeys and use it for storage space or extra batteries for the rest of the time.
    • by vlm (69642)

      A an electric car could have a removable ~30kW microturbine + fuel tank unit for long journeys and use it for storage space or extra batteries for the rest of the time.

      Where do you put it, the passenger seat?

      This is probably justification number one zillion for making an electric conversion of a pickup truck rather than a passenger car, you can toss in your homemade generator unit much like one of those pickup truck toolboxes, or maybe just strap down in the bed. I have heard anecdotal stories of converted pickup trucks where the owner literally straps down a genny in the bed and carries the charger along with him... Stop at restaurant every 4 to 6 hours and let the gen

    • by Nursie (632944)

      Speak for yourself, or your own car.

      My car might not look like a badass but I drove 27000K around the outback in her this year. Cars are just becoming more specialised.

      If you are a city dweller and all you do is make short drives between different parts of the city, then you get a small, safe, fuel-efficient pod. If you need to cross rivers, climb mountains, tame deserts or take the kids to school, you get a 4x4. They're still awesome when used to do what they're supposed to do.

      Luxury and muscle cars are mo

  • That's a pretty sad end for an awesome sounding car.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 17, 2010 @10:17AM (#33923734)

    When I was in high school, my neighbor applied to 'test' of "Chrysler's turbine cars for 3 months. She had to write an essay explaining why she wanted to participate. The car was beautifully futuristic for its time and everything else seemed rather pedestrian. She took my brother and I on a ride in it just once. The experience consisted of a tour of the engine compartment, a trip to the newly-opened McDonalds, and a stop to fill up from a kerosene, gravity-fed tank that a local gas station had installed just for this Chrysler. I remember that the car sound like a household vacuum cleaner only a bit louder. You could easily have a conversation while stand next to the car. Inside the car, it was even quieter. Much of the car was fabricated from aluminum and we were warned not to put our weight on places (the tube-like console, for instance) lest we dent it. The car idled at approximately 10,000 RPM and it had a tach, which I remember watching in fascination. The turbine produce approximately 140 HP, so performance was ordinary. Our neighbor was worried about letting the car sit in one spot for too long as the exhaust was hot enough to melt asphalt. The turbine itself was wired against tampering. All the bolts had little wires threaded through the heads that were then attached to the component the bolt was used in. The car drove quite normally and the only indication it was powered by anything other the a standard IC engine was the vacuum cleaner-like sound it produced.

     

    • by Nos. (179609) <<andrew> <at> <thekerrs.ca>> on Sunday October 17, 2010 @11:02AM (#33923952) Homepage

      I remember Dad telling me about these cars, and specifically the exhaust issue you mentioned. Originally the exhaust pointed straight out the back, however if some pedestrian were to walk behind the car they would end up with severe burns very quickly. As such, they aimed the exhaust downwards, but then you had the issue you mentioned about melting the asphalt.

    • by Deadstick (535032) on Sunday October 17, 2010 @11:25AM (#33924062)
      The turbine itself was wired against tampering. All the bolts had little wires threaded through the heads that were then attached to the component the bolt was used in.

      Those are called safety wires; they prevent bolts and nuts loosening under vibration. You'll find them all over an airplane, too.

      If you were in a tampering mood, you'd need some super high-tech equipment to get past those wires: a pair of diagonal cutters and a coil of safety wire.

      rj

    • by advocate_one (662832) on Sunday October 17, 2010 @12:31PM (#33924438)
      anti-tamper would have had thin copper wire with little lead seals that were embossed with an inspection code, what you saw would have been standard anti-vibration wire-locking to prevent bolts and nuts from undoing themselves.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by couchslug (175151)

      "The turbine itself was wired against tampering. All the bolts had little wires threaded through the heads that were then attached to the component the bolt was used in. "

      That's called "safety wiring", and has been used for many, many years to keep aircraft fasteners from coming loose. It is also standard on much aerospace ground equipment, and would be normal for such an automotive turbine.

  • Maintaining the streetcar systems instead of dismantling them and not incentivizing suburbanization would've been a better idea than some stupid jet car

    • Maintaining the streetcar systems instead of dismantling them and not incentivizing suburbanization would've been a better idea than some stupid jet car

      Except GM dismantled most of them so they can sell more buses.

    • by westlake (615356) on Sunday October 17, 2010 @12:46PM (#33924530)

      Maintaining the streetcar systems instead of dismantling them and not incentivizing suburbanization would've been a better idea than some stupid jet car

      There is a lot of nonsense tossed about the decline of the streetcar.

      Suburbanization begins with the commuter ferry, the bridge, the tunnel and the railroad.

      You don't build the bridge to Brooklyn unless the traffic demands it.

      The streetcar lines and suburban electric rail - "light rail lines" - were in deep financial trouble before World War I.

      The joke at the time was that the Ford was cheaper per mile than a good pair of boots. You had portal-to-portal service. Room for four passengers, the family dog, and a week's worth of groceries from the new A&P.

      The Ford came first. The paved road outside the city limits often much, much later.

      If you want to know what drove suburbanization, don't look at GM, look at the telephone and rural electrification, Burpee Seeds, the supermarket and the Sears, Roebuck catalog.

      Sears in the late teens and twenties would sell you a kit home at 6% interest that would cost maybe a third less than conventional construction. There is a handsome surviving example not four blocks from where I live.

      It's not hard to see the appeal for any middle class family.

  • There is a problem with these engines in that they don't idle. So how about using them to generate electric energy and store it in the car and then use that electric energy to run the electric motors?

    The car wouldn't need to have the turbine on all the time, only to generate enough power for the next hour or so and store it into the batteries or flywheels. Actually turbine could be used to accelerate flywheels much faster than topping up electrical batteries.

  • Want to See One? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Thumper_SVX (239525) on Sunday October 17, 2010 @10:25AM (#33923774) Homepage

    If you want to see one of these fantastic cars, there's one on display at the St. Louis Museum of Transportation. I love that place; loads of trains, cars and all manner of awesome transportation stuff (even some boats)... and one of the turbine cars is still on display there. I ended up signing up for a membership to the place because my 10 year old son loved it so much.

    I think the technology in this thing was awesome... hell, I even love the styling in a retro sort of way. I would have jumped at the opportunity to buy and own a turbine powered car... and though I'm sure the fuel mileage wasn't fantastic, the fact that it could run on just about anything meant that you could have filled it up with whatever was cheapest at the time and used that to get to work. I'm sure that might still happen again; the age of the turbine car may only be in limbo... not over.

    Jay Leno has a turbine powered motorbike as well (http://www.bikemenu.com/turbine.html). I remember reading an article he wrote about it that made me laugh; that it was often interesting to sit at a set of lights and look in the rear view mirror and watch the front bumper of the car behind him melting because of the heat output...

  • The OPOC engine shows more promise for a sudden breakthrough in fuel economy.

    Lighter, less moving parts and runs on diesel.

    Initial it is being designed for trucks and large vehicles, but coupled with a CVT or even as the engine of a hybrid, smaller models would be ideal for autos.

    http://www.autoinsane.com/2009/03/09/news/tech/video-revolutionary-opposed-cylinder-opposed-piston-engine/ [autoinsane.com]

  • by wowbagger (69688) on Sunday October 17, 2010 @10:47AM (#33923878) Homepage Journal

    The biggest problem with turbine powered cars was coupling to the wheels. Turbines have two unfortunate properties that make them very unsuited to directly driving the wheels of a car:
    1) They spin far too fast, so you have to have a transmission to slow that down.
    2) they don't like to slow down too much, so you have to have some means to clutch them so starting from a stop won't stall them.

    In applications like helicopters, that's not a big deal: once you have the rotors turning, you'd like to keep them turning.

    But for cars it was a deal-breaker.

    I highlight was because there is a better idea on the block:

    http://www.capstoneturbine.com/prodsol/solutions/hev.asp [capstoneturbine.com]

    The idea Capstone has is that you have a single spindle turbine, with a generator on the same shaft as the turbine. There is no mechanical coupling of torque to the wheels - the system makes electricity. That works well with an electric drive train - electric motors have no problems with making torque at zero RPM, they have a wide torque band that reduces or eliminates the need for a transmission, and the turbine can be started and stopped as needed to maintain the batteries. The Capstone turbines don't need lubrication as they use air bearings, and they meet or beat all the air quality standards on the books or planned to be on the books, running on diesel.

    I just hope somebody gets smart, and makes a van chassis on this tech, with different bodies for Suzy Soccermom, UPS, Class-C motorhomes, and basic transportation, that uses heat pumps + resistive heating for climate control (so that it can run off the traction battery without needing to run the turbine to make heat), and that gives me access to 120VAC@50A from the traction batteries (plus an inverter, naturally) so that I can use it for camping as needed.

    (no, I neither work for nor own stock in Capstone - I just think this is the way things need to go.)

  • Most 60's American cars no longer exist. Nostalgia makes us sad that they do not exist. OTOH, we now are quite aware that there is nothing like a free lunch. The issue is not just changing energy sources every time there is a crisis, but using those energy sources more efficiently.

    I have often this was also an issue with a hover car. If we are constantly providing a normal force to keep the car, say, 50 centimeters above the ground, then for a typical car this would be 5000 joules or W*s. Given the s

  • This approach (using battery power topped up by a small turbine) would seem to make more sense given turbine engine characteristics (poor idle performance etc.)

    http://hardware.slashdot.org/story/10/10/01/0039240/Jaguars-Hybrid-Jet-Powered-Concept-Car?from=rss [slashdot.org]

  • I once challenged an engineer buddy to come up with a working concept for a hydrogen car and he cited turbines that generated power for electric motors at each individual wheel (because the turbine always has a consistent amount of fuel flowing from it, your throttle wouldn't regulate fuel but the electric motors). It makes sense, but they're quite a different beast than traditional piston-rod motors. While technically it wouldn't be too difficult, economic and logistical factors are the great barriers. Saf

  • by Maury Markowitz (452832) on Sunday October 17, 2010 @11:18AM (#33924024) Homepage

    > How different would America be now if we all drove turbine-powered cars

    LOL. A turbine uses between 60 and 70% of it's full-throttle fuel use while standing still. The compressor soaks up a lot of power. They're fine for systems that operate at high power levels all the time, or where power-to-weight is the only major consideration, but for auto use they're useless. Hybrids fix this, but they didn't have LiIon batteries in the 50/60's.

    > single spindle turbine, with a generator on the same shaft as the turbine

    Use a Wankel. All the same advantages. They're even replacing turbines for APUs.

    Maury

  • No dependence (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Jerry Rivers (881171) on Sunday October 17, 2010 @11:26AM (#33924066)

    Dependence on Mideast oil? That's bullshit. The majority of U.S. comes from Canada, Mexico and Nigeria. It could stop importing oil from the Mideast tomorrow if it really wanted to, but doesn't probably for political reasons.

    http://www.eia.doe.gov/pub/oil_gas/petroleum/data_publications/company_level_imports/current/import.html [doe.gov]

    • Re:No dependence (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Marcika (1003625) on Sunday October 17, 2010 @01:38PM (#33924932)

      Dependence on Mideast oil? That's bullshit. The majority of U.S. comes from Canada, Mexico and Nigeria. It could stop importing oil from the Mideast tomorrow if it really wanted to, but doesn't probably for political reasons.

      http://www.eia.doe.gov/pub/oil_gas/petroleum/data_publications/company_level_imports/current/import.html [doe.gov]

      The one full of ... ignorance ... is you. The market for oil is integrated worldwide. Supertanker transport is virtually free. Which means that every barrel sold anywhere affects the market on the other side of the world.

      As a thought experiment: Imagine the Arab world goes into a huff and decides to stop exporting oil. Europe and Asia therefore have to turn to the next-closest source, Nigeria/Mexico/Venezuela. Since many more people are now bidding for the Nigerian oil, they can afford to put prices up. Since the oil market is so efficient (remember, transport is cheap), prices go up massively even in Podunk, Alaska and Armpit, Texas. The American economy crashes without ever having imported a drop of oil from the Middle East. QED.

  • by PatPending (953482) on Sunday October 17, 2010 @12:28PM (#33924418)
    From Wikipedia (emphasis added):

    The Dymaxion car [wikipedia.org] was a concept car designed by U.S. inventor and architect Buckminster Fuller in 1933.] The word Dymaxion is a brand name that Fuller gave to several of his inventions, to emphasize that he considered them part of a more general project to improve humanity's living conditions. The car had a fuel efficiency of 30 miles per US gallon. It could transport 11 passengers. While Fuller claimed it could reach speeds of 120 miles per hour, the fastest documented speed was 90 miles per hour.

    Then there is this:

    In his 1988 book The Age of Heretics, author Art Kleiner maintained that the real reason why Chrysler refused to produce the car was because bankers had threatened to recall their loans, feeling that the car would destroy sales for vehicles already in the distribution channels and second-hand cars.

    • by westlake (615356)

      The Dymaxion was a 20 foot long tricycle, steered by its single rear wheel.

      The second and third Dymaxion car had a rear view periscope. No rear window.

      Fuller tested 22 different kinds of steering posts. The car always had a problem with shuddering from side to side, especially in wind, and he had been working on different ways to fix the problem.
      When Fuller had the car, he rolled it with his family in it. They were injured but recovered--the car had seatbelts. Because of this accident, it was modified, and

  • Publicity Stunt (Score:5, Interesting)

    by anorlunda (311253) on Sunday October 17, 2010 @02:56PM (#33925428) Homepage

    My dad worked for Chrysler back then. He got to participate in a publicity stunt with the turbine car.

    After alerting the TV network, he drove up to Rockefeller Center in the turbine car. In front of the cameras he poured a quart of Chanel No. 5 in the tank. Then he drove it all over Manhattan the rest of the day.

    As an added twist, he did the whole thing on three wheels. He had removed one of the front wheels to demonstrate the superiority of Chrysler's torsion bar suspension.

    I think the whole thing was very cool.

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