Mid Week Motoring

The Tribune (NZ) - - MOTORING - Com­piled by Richard Mays

CHI­NESE SU­PER-CAR

China’s first con­cept su­per­car is bring­ing back the tur­bine-based pow­er­train. Techrules, an au­to­mo­tive re­search and devel­op­ment com­pany, has de­vel­oped a Tur­bine Recharg­ing Elec­tric Ve­hi­cle (Trev) sys­tem, in two de­signs, the AT96 and GT96.

AT refers to Avi­a­tion Tur­bine, a race­track fo­cused ver­sion con­fig­ured to run on a liq­uid fuel such as avi­a­tion kerosene, diesel and gaso­line. GT or Gas Tur­bine runs on a gaseous fuel such as bio­gas and nat­u­ral gas, and is styled as a road­go­ing hy­per­car that in­cor­po­rates plug-in charg­ing.

The GT con­cept is driven by six elec­tric trac­tion mo­tors, each weigh­ing 13kg and each cou­pled to its own ded­i­cated in­verter. Each front wheel is driven by a sin­gle mo­tor, while each rear wheel is driven by a pair of mo­tors. This frees the com­bus­tion en­gine to ex­clu­sively con­vert chem­i­cal en­ergy into me­chan­i­cal en­ergy and fi­nally into elec­tric en­ergy.

In­stead of tra­di­tional oil-based lu­bri­cant in the drive­shaft, Techrules em­ploys air bear­ing tech­nol­ogy – a high pres­sure feed of com­pressed air, re­sult­ing in fewer fric­tional en­ergy losses. The car can do 0-100 kmh in 2.5 sec­onds, has a range of 150km from plug-in power alone, and can travel 2000km on just 80 litres of liq­uid fuel.

Techrules says it will be­gin se­ries pro­duc­tion in a low-vol­ume su­per­car of its own de­sign within a cou­ple of years. It then plans to make higher-vol­ume city cars.

TUR­BINE TIME AGAIN?

Tur­bines have al­ways been an in­ef­fi­cient way to con­vert chem­i­cal en­ergy into use­ful wheel-turn­ing me­chan­i­cal en­ergy. Only a few have tried to use a tur­bine in the pow­er­train sys­tem, and none have suc­ceeded com­mer­cially.

In­spired by avi­a­tion tech­nol­ogy, some big-name car­mak­ers em­braced tur­bine power in the 1950s and 1960s, with fas­ci­nat­ing, al­beit un­suc­cess­ful, re­sults.

Rover pro­duced the Jet 1 in 1950. Based on the P4 pro­duc­tion car, it had aero­dy­namic styling and a rear­mounted en­gine. Smooth and rel­a­tively quick with a top speed of 137kmh, it was also in­cred­i­bly thirsty, av­er­ag­ing 39 litres per 100km.

General Mo­tors in­tro­duced a se­ries of Fire­bird con­cepts from 1953-64. Never in­tended for pro­duc­tion, ear­lier ver­sions had out­ra­geous air­craft-in­spired styling, in­clud­ing glass canopies and huge wings. .

1962’s Chrysler Tur­bine with gas­tur­bine en­gine and sleek styling by Ghia, could run on a wide va­ri­ety of flammable liq­uids – al­though not leaded fuel, which lim­ited its prac­ti­cal­ity.

Just 55 units were built, and un­able to per­fect the pow­er­train for pro­duc­tion, Chrysler junked all but nine. Only three re­main op­er­a­tional and two are in the hands of pri­vate col­lec­tors, in­clud­ing tele­vi­sion per­son­al­ity and car en­thu­si­ast, Jay Leno.

BANGERS TO BLUFF

The 2016 ‘‘Bangers to Bluff’’ rally started in Auck­land on March 30 and ends 11 days later in Bluff, this Fri­day April 9.

The sec­ond Ro­tary Club of Half Moon Bay event stip­u­lates that each car en­tered in the rally must cost less than $1000, be reg­is­tered and with a WOF. In the style of Top Gear, points are awarded for en­tries cost­ing less than $1000 and for dif­fer­ent ‘‘chal­lenges’’ en route.

The rally has taken the scenic, less-trav­elled route rather than the main high­way south to Bluff via the Caitlins. Af­ter the rally, con­tes­tants travel to Queen­stown to dis­pose of the ve­hi­cles, with the pro­ceeds go­ing to char­ity.

Among the ben­e­fi­cia­ries of this year’s event will be Alzheimers New Zealand and the Hope­works Foun­da­tion.

ROBO ROAD RAGE

How do Isaac Asi­mov’s Three Laws of Ro­bot­ics ap­ply to self­driv­ing cars?

When it comes to set­ting amoral code for smart robo-cars, there are co­nun­drums. Benz is work­ing on ad­vanced ma­chine-learn­ing tech­nol­ogy that will mould an au­ton­o­mous car’s be­hav­iour around the pref­er­ences of its oc­cu­pants. What if those pref­er­ences in­clude mal­ice and malfea­sance?

What if you’re Don­ald Trump? Could his Benz cut off other self-driv­ers, or run them off the road just for the fun of it, elec­tronic mid­dle fin­ger ex­tended?

At some point it’s en­tirely likely that in­jury or worse is inevitable and robo-car is go­ing to have to make some tough choices about whether to pro­tect it­self, its oc­cu­pants or other hu­mans caught up in a crash sce­nario.

There are calls for pub­lic de­bate on how such moral ques­tions are ad­dressed in robo-car soft­ware.

Pas­sen­gers should ex­pect their robo­car to be obe­di­ent – but how obe­di­ent?

The 1962 Chrysler Tur­bine was quite lit­er­ally the last word in mo­tor ve­hi­cle gas tur­bine tech­nol­ogy.

The Techrules con­cept road-go­ing tur­bine car which can run on bio­gas or nat­u­ral gas.

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