Turbines are so EASY!

In the early 1960’s, Chrysler began experimenting on the possibility of a turbine powered car. This engine had only 60 moving parts compared to a piston engine, it needed no oil change, tune-ups were almost not needed, no antifreeze, low weight, ran on just about anything that you could put into a gas tank, long lasting, and ultra low maintenance. Admittedly these engines, while having the lowest emissions of carbon dioxide in a car of that era, did put out a rather large amount of nitrogen dioxides, that and turbines were expensive. Do any of you feel that, with today’s advances in engineering and science, could another model of turbine-propelled car be built that operated on par or better than Chrysler’s turbine cars?

Turbines are not fuel efficient compared to piston engines. And while there may be fewer parts the cost of the parts and the tolerances are very high. They would not be cheap.

Aircraft turbines, even with a FADEC system, are not without complications.

Actually, the part I’ve bolded refers to their efficiency when idle or at speeds less than typical highway speeds…

Unless it’s a positive displacement cycle I don’t see where it would be possible to maintain emissions or efficiency standards. They’re not designed to throttle up and down continuously. If they could meet both fuel efficiency and emissions standards at a fixed throttle setting then they would make a nice electric hybrid combo. But you would have to be able to spool up and down and maintain the numbers.

I think if it was doable it would already be in railroad engines. The only advancement in turbines that I’ve seen is the single cast compressor found in smaller jet engines.

\ I used to see them driving around town in 1963. They had a strange sound . They actually looked ahead of the time in styling.

I think a small ceramic turbine would be an ideal prime mover in a hybrid. You can keep the thing at a constant speed where it’s happy and you don’t have to gear down those tens-of-thousands of rpm to match the wheels - generator-motor matching handles all of that.

Don’t think it will happen though. Diesels are far enough along the efficiency road that nobody is going to try and develop the turbine concept, and the turbine’s power-to-weight is not enough of an advantage for anyone to care.

You might want to look at this hybrid car from 1993.

Oh and if you have some time google Jay Leno +turbine. He has played around with some turbine engined vehicles.

The Chrysler Turbine cars never really worked out. There were fuel efficiency, pollution control, performance, and noise problems. Modern gasoline and diesel car engines are much more efficient than any turbines ever developed in that power range. Like so many engines types, turbines operate efficiently over a narrow power range, while the requirements of cars involve rapid acceleration and indefinite idle periods. Turbines are better at handling those requirements than some alternatives, but not up to the level of the piston based internal combustion engines.

Technology keeps advancing though. High temperature materials, high speed bearings, and closer machining tolerance are more practical now. Maybe the turbine will get another chance to compete.


I think you need to have some atomic batteries engaged before you can get the turbines up to speed.

I think they were attempted, but failed miserably in actual use. I remember reading one story of the UP test unit that parked below an overpass. The heat rising melted the asphalt, and noise was unbearable.

quoted by campp

Several railroads tried the concept. Norfolk& Western built at least one direct-drive steam turbine locomotive. Chesapeak & Ohio, N&W, and Union Pacific all tried steam turbine/electric locomotives. The most successsful were UP’s “Big Blow” gas turbine/electrics which to my layman’s mind seem to have been basically a jet-powered generator driving electric traction motors. These produced tremendous horsepower, but as with other types the drawback was that turbines operated best at a constant high speed. This was not really appropriate for railroad use which, like highway driving, requires frequent speed changes. The “Big Blows” served well enough for heavy mainline haulage, but were notorious fuel hogs, and the noise level they generated caused some jurisdictions to attempt to ban their use. As this video shows, they were capable of some pretty impressive flam-outs.

If you think that’s awesome, take a look at this one:

A 200 mph supercar with such low emissions that it’s exempt from road tax.

It was announced this week that they will build 250 at roughly £700,000 each.

More on the current state of the art micro-turbines for cars. And for busses. The fuel flexibility is a big sales point. Most of their disadvantages are immaterial when used as range extenders in PHEVs.

a turbine deals with very high rotating speeds. not all of that can be harnessed to provide either mechanical force or electrical generation. part of that energy has to be stored in a fly-wheel mechanism. and fly-wheels are even more complicated than turbines.

The Capstone microturbine in **DSeid’s **link has one moving part, and no lubrication. Doesn’t get much simpler.

If it’s a turbine-powered vehicle you want, you can get one today, completely street legal (albeit expensive). Just make sure you don’t melt the bodywork or strip the paint off the guy’s car next to you when you come to a stop light. Not that you’ll be able to hear him yelling at you when you go deaf from all the noise, but nothing’s perfect.

Until you go to bed one 50 degree evening in Minnesota only to wake up 0 degrees and vegetable oil goo in the fuel tank.

I’m not buying that any turbine is going to be a quick and reliable starter at -20, -30, or -40 degree temperatures. Maybe as a niche vehicle in the sun belt, but I think development costs to make it a practical cold weather engine package would be a concern to major automakers.

That is a niche market in itself.

Hopefully, your Plug In Hybrid would be Plugged In overnight, and you could have a block and fuel heater to keep everything warm enough to work.