In May 2015, Californian Company, Wrightspeed announced the Fulcrum, a gas turbine on-board range extender for charging the batteries of electric vehicles.
For over ten years, there has been a small market for such jet engines as range extenders in the larger electric vehicles, for example the buses made by the former company Designline in New Zealand and those by Adura Systems in the USA. These Capstone turbines were not designed for this application. They were auxiliary power supplies in jet aircraft - the so-called On Board Units OBU. Such units have another EV reincarnation. In position as OBUs, some of their electricity is newly used to make an airliner an electric vehicle when on the ground by driving the nose-wheel. The pilot can then berth the aircraft without waiting for a tug.
Wrightspeed also used such turbines in its medium-sized trucks. Its flagship product, the Route™ was designed to transcend commercial truck efficiency and performance, providing unlimited range and dramatically reduced fuel costs. Later came gas turbine range extenders specifically optimised by Wrightspeed for on-road vehicles.
The Fulcrum's simple, innovative design represents a breakthrough that challenges today's piston engines and leaves existing turbine generators wanting, says the company.
"Powerful like a jet, and clean like a windmill, the 80kW Fulcrum turbine generator sets a new standard as Wrightspeed continues to evolve electric vehicle propulsion. 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., it 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." says the company.
"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," said Ian Wright, CEO and founder of Wrightspeed. "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."
Leader of the IDTechEx EV analyst team Dr Peter Harrop comments, "This is a big step forward at the power levels needed for trucks and buses, which currently produce more pollution than cars in many countries. Others are circling too. Bladon Jets is getting economy of scale with its versions by first selling them as replacements for kerosene generators on homes and offices in the developing countries. Then it will be well placed to tackle cars such as the Jaguar Land Rover Group of its investor Ratan Tata. Their jets can be held in one hand and they have a single-piece shaft with blades made originally by spark erosion. On the other hand, Microturbo Safran of France recently made a small jet engine by 3D printing, discussing its potential as a range extender at the recent IDTechEx "Electric Vehicles: Everything is Changing" event in Berlin. Competition for jet engine range extenders will come from the rotary combustion engines of Libralato, Austro Engine, Proton and others. Additionally, there are fuel cell range extenders as seen in the new Toyota Mirai as they tackle their challenges of highest cost and lack of hydrogen refuelling infrastructure. A market for ten million range extenders yearly is emerging - a huge new market. However, the days of piston-engine range extenders are numbered, with the possible exception of planned free-piston engine fuel generators". For more see the IDTechEx report, Range Extenders for Electric Vehicles 2015-2025
Top image: Fulcrum