Mid Week Motoring
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.