Friday, 21 November 2014
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Jetcars and Batmobiles

You’d be forgiven for thinking that a car with jet engines would be a fuel-hungry cousin of the Batmobile rather than the latest development in electric vehicle technology. But for its showing at this year’s Paris Motor Show, Jaguar Land Rover has managed to come up with an innovative, low emissions car that also makes for a great headline.

Of course replace the words ‘jet engine’ with the more accurate ones ‘gas turbine’ and it immediately sounds less exciting. Still, the 205mph C-X75 concept car represents an impressive move by a UK-based firm that’s already won millions of pounds from the government to develop its existing range-extended electric car.

Jaguar claims the car can travel 900km (560 miles) on one tank of LPG and a full battery charge, reaching a top speed of 330km/h (205mph) releasing 28g/km of carbon dioxide once the battery runs down.

This compares to an average of 160g/km for new European cars with conventional petrol engines and 120g/km for Jaguar’s government-funded Limo-Green, which can only reach 180km/h (112mph).

Like other range-extended cars, the C-X75 uses its fuel to power an electric motor rather than an internal combustion engine. But Jaguar has this time fitted a miniature gas turbine developed by Shropshire-based Bladon Jets, the kind of which has been used before for hybrid buses.

The project is a success story for British engineering, and not just because of the car itself, which uses lightweight aluminium construction techniques and 50 per cent recycled metals. Jaguar’s Indian owner Tata has been so impressed with Bladon’s technology that it has agreed to acquire a 20 per cent stake in the firm.

Gas turbine technology could be of particular use in reducing emissions in India, where over a third of the population don’t have access to electricity but where farmers could help generate biogas to fill the country’s fuel needs.

It’s also encouraging that one of the biggest stories of an event for petrolheads is a luxury car manufacturer unveiling its new electric vehicle concept for the second year in a row.

The C-X75 may never go into production and it’s unlikely to become a common sight on the motorway, but the push for low-carbon vehicle technology is a vital weapon in the fight against climate change.

Of course, the Paris Motor Show is also the place to see some of the world’s sleekest and dynamic car designs, and this year there seems to be something of a trend for vehicles that really do look like the Batmobile.

Christopher Nolan’s influence is all over the place, from Peugot’s electric EX1 – which the firm claims can do 280 miles on one battery charge – to the Sesto Elemento from Lamborghini – which has a body, wheels, suspension and brakes made from carbon fibre.

However, maybe the best car story of the day is away from Paris, in a small town in Indiana, USA.  There, a firm named Fiberglass Freaks has begun selling actual Batmobiles. Well, replicas of the one used in the 1960s TV show starring Adam West. Now, anyone with $150,000 and a love for camp comic book heroes can live their dream.


Readers' comments (7)

  • Riddle me this Batman; who would sell theft insurance for the Batmobile? Only a Joker would park this thing in Detroit of NYC.
    Hard to make money in a chop shop for stolen cars, and harder to trade in for another model, but totally cool!

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  • OK the batmobile replica is a good bit of fun; but the serious point was the use of the Bladon Jets turbine as a charging engine. This is the first serious hybrid I've seen, and with a viable performance and range. Given that the Bladon Jet can run on Biogas, LPG or Petrol; refueling should never be an issue, even with our existing fueling infrastructure.
    The Jaguar concept car itself might not ever see production, but the Gas Turbine/Battery Hybrid car has a definite future.
    Now, where can I get my hands on a micro turbine . . .

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  • This sounds rather like the Rover gas turbine we did experiments on in the lab when I was a student. Small and quite efficient except that as it ran at 50krpm the no load fuel consumption was 50% of full throttle, so not really useable on the road. However possibly useful as a small light generator, run only at full throttle.

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  • 5 valves per cylinder, turbo-charging, hybrids and now gas turbine hybrids - all developments carried out on the railways at least 50 years ago and subsequently adopted by the car industry. However, with this one the inherent need to exhaust very high temperature gases may preclude a successful crossover. Having said that I still look forward to finally getting my hands on a "jet car" though!

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  • I think the breakthrough by Bladon Jets is the "miniature" gas turbine. If you take a look at their website the opening piccy shows a gas turbine, and a pencil the width of the whole unit. I don't think they had those on the railway 50 years ago.
    You use this to charge your battery and the battery to run your car, or maybe you engage the turbine directly if in continuous drive, like on the motor way. In town battery only, when it runs low the turbine kicks in.

    Sounds good to me.

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  • Great concept but is the 330km/h top speed really necessary? Greater efficiency would be found by reducing the top end speed to a more realistic one.

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  • Bladon Gas turbine + Switched reluctance generator - as featured in this journal a few months ago ??

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