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The Rise and Fall of America's Jet-Powered Car

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the fly-to-work dept.

Transportation 338

Pickens writes "The WSJ reports that the automobile designs of the 1950s and 1960s were inspired by the space race and the dawn of jet travel. But one car manufacturer, Chrysler, was bold enough to put a jet engine in an automobile that ran at an astounding 60,000 rpm on any flammable fluid including gasoline, diesel, kerosene, jet fuel, peanut oil, alcohol, tequila, or perfume. Visionary Chrysler designer George Huebner believed that there was plenty to recommend the turbine. People loved the car. In a publicity scheme to promote its 'jet' car, Chrysler commissioned Ghia to handcraft 50 identical car bodies and each car would be lent to a family for a few months and then passed on to another. Chrysler received more than 30,000 requests in 1962 to become test drivers and eventually 203 were chosen who logged more than one million miles (mostly trouble free) in the 50 Ghia prototypes. In the end Chrysler killed the turbine car after OPEC's 1973 oil embargo. 'How different would America be now if we all drove turbine-powered cars? It could have happened. But government interference, shortsighted regulators, and indifferent corporate leaders each played a role in the demise of a program that could have lessened US dependence on Middle East oil.'"

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Those Bastards .. (2, Funny)

fkx (453233) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923518)

... and it could have been the foundation for flying cars to boot.

Turbine (4, Interesting)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923522)

The word, I think, is "turbine" (or even "jet turbine,")-- not "Jet powered".

How noisy were they?

Re:Turbine (4, Informative)

lenski (96498) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923584)

From the comments in the WSJ online, people who rode in them described them as nearly silent.

Re:Turbine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33923590)

How noisy were they?

It was my first thought. If there are already a bunch of f****** [wikipedia.org] making loud sounds with what we have now. I believe we would be all deaf by now if that market had taken off. The image of a bunch of dudes in front of a bar, accelerating their engines comes to mind.

Re:Turbine (5, Informative)

EdZ (755139) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923620)

"Gas turbine" is the usual term for a turbine that drives via its shaft rather than by its exhaust.
The problem with a gas turbine is that they have rather poor efficiency. They have an excellent power-to-weight ratio (which is why they're used in aircraft, and why gas turbines are used in helicopters), but their fuel economy, even when used in an electric drive system and always running at the peak efficiency RPM, will never reach that of an average petrol engine, let alone diesel. Add that a diesel engine can run on most (if not all, when correctly filtered and if the engine is tuned for it) of the range of fuels a gas turbine can, it's the better choice for a vehicle that doesn't need to lift it's own weight except when on a gradual incline.

Re:Turbine (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33923720)

The problem with a gas turbine is that they have rather poor efficiency.

Yup. When Gas Turbines were new and sexy, everyone and their dog were looking for practical applications. There were gas turbine powered trucks, cars and locomotives. All them suffered from the exact same problem, namely that they drank fuel.

A gas turbine can only really be considered efficient at full load, but trucks, locomotives and cars are often not at full load. Gas turbines run at a fixed speed, and there is a lower limit on the amount of fuel they consume even when "idle". An empty truck or locomotive with a light train behind it still requires that gas turbine to be burning far more fuel than the equivalent diesel or petrol engine would.

Re:Turbine (0)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923622)

How noisy were they?

Extremely... That big giant "box" you see under the hood is probably the inlet baffling. Turbine inlets are just as loud as the exhaust. The article is full of shit about the gears..

Re:Turbine (4, Informative)

sphealey (2855) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923646)

>> How noisy were they?

> Extremely

Having just heard a Chrysler Turbine Car in operation this spring, I'll have to respectfully disagree: I was surprised by how quiet it was.

sPh

Re:Turbine (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#33924080)

Yes it's because of that intake box. It's a very effective muffler. I can assure you a turbine engine by itself is everything but quiet.

Re:Turbine (4, Insightful)

mbone (558574) | more than 3 years ago | (#33924136)

Well, having had a muffler fall off, I can testify that piston engines are intrinsically pretty loud too.

Re:Turbine (4, Informative)

sphealey (2855) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923634)

> How noisy were they?

Quiet, actually. I was at the Museum of Transport in St. Louis this spring and happened into the auto hall just as they fired up the engine on their turbine car. Having spent a lot of time working with industrial gas turbines, I was surprised at how noisy it wasn't - considerably less noise than a piston engine of equivalent horsepower from that era.

Quite a lot of smoke though; they had to open up a garage-sized door for ventilation.

sPh

Re:Turbine (1)

Terc (943964) | more than 3 years ago | (#33924324)

NOT quiet. Two of these cars are in the hands of private collectors. Here's a shocker; Jay Leno has one. Thankfully, he's kind enough to have taken it to at least one car show. Here's a youtube video of this giant vacuum cleaner running. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0GZKpvTiq20 [youtube.com]

Retrocausality, according to Wall Street Journal (4, Insightful)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923670)

Reading throught the comments, I see it was described as being quite quiet, so apparently noise was not the issue. 11.5 miles per gallon, though, that's not a good number, even by standards of the time. The article starts out "Turbines were the bucking broncos of the engine world: loud and hard to control, gulping vast quantities of fuel and air.". Looks like they solved the noise problem (except for that "turbine whine" described), but the "gulping vast quantities of fuel" wasn't so easily solvable.

This is the key sentence: "The primary culprit was OPEC's 1973 oil embargo and the panicked response of federal regulators, who set unrealistic standards to limit fuel consumption and air pollution."

Unrealistic? What exactly does that word mean? All of the car manufacturers managed to meet the fuel efficiency goals: all of them. And, it turns out, it wasn't even really very hard. The pollution goals as well. And its hardly true that "the Environmental Protection Agency required tailpipe emissions to be cleaner than the ambient air." Maybe the "ambient air" in polluted cities. I remember the air in those days-- I'm quite happy to have today's pollution standards, thank you. Twice as many cars in America as there were in 1963, but the air is much cleaner.

In any case, though, this is just the Wall Street Journal's sliding in a political opinion in the guise of a fact. The cars were made in 1962, and the article states "Most of the cars—46 of them—were destroyed in 1967." I don't think you can blame the OPEC Oil embargo of 1973 for the failure of the design six years previously. Perhaps the WSJ should have paid attention to this sentence: "Yes, turbine engines were expensive to mass produce."

Re:Retrocausality, according to Wall Street Journa (1)

wb8nbs (174741) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923780)

I haven't been there in 15 years but the Detroit Historical Museam had one on display.

Re:Retrocausality, according to Wall Street Journa (-1, Flamebait)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923824)

Yeah the WSJ article is one giant fail.
The reporter does even worse research than Glenn Beck.

TODAY'S EPA standards are cleaner than ambient air, but they weren't back in 1975. The standards were about 100 times dirtier than today's LEV-II cars.

Re:Retrocausality, according to Wall Street Journa (3, Insightful)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923880)

Yeah, I went to Romania in the late 90s and the city I was in reminded me of Miami without emissions controls. Outside, the gas and diesel fumes were thick and inside everyone smoked. By the time my week there was up, my lungs ached for clean air. I'll be glad to take our "unrealistic air pollution standards," TYVM.

Re:Retrocausality, according to Wall Street Journa (5, Insightful)

Born2bwire (977760) | more than 3 years ago | (#33924220)

Travelling to other countries, particularly areas of China and India, can really drive home how low the pollution is in most parts of America. There are times that I can't see more than 100 yards down the street and this is due to the air pollution from the cars and factories.

Re:Retrocausality, according to Wall Street Journa (3, Interesting)

nabsltd (1313397) | more than 3 years ago | (#33924016)

Looks like they solved the noise problem (except for that "turbine whine" described), but the "gulping vast quantities of fuel" wasn't so easily solvable.

Today, however, a gas turbine connected to a generator to charge the batteries for a pure-electric drive car might be a feasible solution, as it would allow the turbine to only run at full load, and thus achieve its best efficiencies.

I suppose a hybid could work, too, again with the turbine only running when the vehicle needs a lot of power, but then you get into transmission losses that you could avoid with a pure electric motor drive.

Re:Turbine (2, Insightful)

htdrifter (1392761) | more than 3 years ago | (#33924110)

The word, I think, is "turbine" (or even "jet turbine,")-- not "Jet powered".

How noisy were they?

Not noisy at all. One of my customers brought one into the shop so we could check it out. It was quieter then most cars. It just sounded different. The mileage was better then most cars of that time.

I rode in it. It was very quiet inside and had excellent acceleration. A really nice car. It's too bad they never put them in production.

Re:Turbine (1)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 3 years ago | (#33924386)

The Batmobile was pretty quiet.

Jet powered cars still alive... sort of. (3, Informative)

nschubach (922175) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923534)

There was a recent post on a jet powered concept car... I wouldn't call the idea dead yet.

http://hardware.slashdot.org/story/10/10/01/0039240/Jaguars-Hybrid-Jet-Powered-Concept-Car?from=rss [slashdot.org]

Series Hybrids Rock (1)

StCredZero (169093) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923668)

A series hybrid [wikipedia.org] car with turbine generators would rock! People have proposed additional generator modules for series hybrids which can be added as needed for long trips. Turbine modules could be made small, so that they could recharge your vehicle while parked during the day, though this wouldn't be the most efficient use of the fuel. Conversely, one could add additional turbine modules for specific purposes, like towing cargo or driving on very steep roads. Cars would become configurable!

Re:Series Hybrids Rock (2, Interesting)

modmans2ndcoming (929661) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923872)

Schwarzenegger has an after market conversion hybrid for his Hummer. It uses a jet turbine to fill the battery. I recall reading the article in 2006 or 2007 in MIT Tech Review.

Rover tried this too in the 40s (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33923542)

I remember reading about Rover doing experiments with turbines in the 40s.
linky http://www.rover.org.nz/pages/jet/jet5.htm

Needed to be hybrid (2, Insightful)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923544)

Turbines suck at low RPM, have exotic acceleration modes and requirements and only shine at constant speed. What Detroit needed was a hybrid turbine-electric car, either in series or parallel. With today's electric technology, I'm surprised these haven't made a comeback. You'd have the best of both worlds. But with fuel at less than 3 USD per gallon, why bother?

Re:Needed to be hybrid (5, Insightful)

somersault (912633) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923688)

with fuel at less than 3 USD per gallon, why bother?

Just because you've harvested your crop and have a large current supply, doesn't mean you shouldn't plant seeds for next year.

I know it's not a car analogy, but the article is already about cars, so why not a farming analogy?

Re:Needed to be hybrid (1)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923698)

But with fuel at less than 3 USD per gallon, why bother?

That's going to change in the near future.

But still, turbines are pigs when it comes to fuel.

Re:Needed to be hybrid (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 3 years ago | (#33924132)

With today's electric technology, I'm surprised these haven't made a comeback.

Their horrid fuel economy, high manufacturing expense, and high noise level probably has something to do with it.

Turbines are fuel guzzlers (1)

cheesybagel (670288) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923548)

It would make your sedan's fuel consumption put an HMMWV to shame. Regular diesel engines can also run on peanut oil. In fact that was the fuel Diesel himself used to demonstrate his engine. Gasoline engines can be easily modified to also run on ethanol. The issue with peanut oil, ethanol, or indeed any other fuel made from biomass is that you cannot make enough fuel to run the cars we use today even if you replaced all current farmland to produce fuel instead. So you propose to solve the problem by increasing fuel consumption even further? Madness.

In order for turbines to be successful someone needs to increase their efficiency further.

Re:Turbines are fuel guzzlers (1)

ComputerGeek01 (1182793) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923592)

Given the amount of food stuffs in New York state alone that the government pays to have destroyed every year to balance prices I really doubt everytime someone says that you cannot produce enough crops to make biofuels our primary energy source. What you are seeing is a cleaver twisting of the facts where someone looks only at the food that makes it to market and determines that we cannot produce enough corn or whatever other product to make biofuel, mean while in the background farmers are given money NOT to harvest crops just so that the market doesn't destroy itself due to its over production. Please tell me, if it weren't for this government subsidy, Why-T-F would corporate farms expand so aggressivly?

Re:Turbines are fuel guzzlers (2, Insightful)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923812)

You don't seem to have any idea of how much total energy this nation consumes vs. how much is in the food we eat. The US uses somewhere in the neighborhood of 1e20 joules of energy each year. If the average person consumes 2500 Cal per day of food, that's about 1.1e18 J of food energy per year.

We use almost 100 times as much total energy as the amount of energy in the food we currently grow. Even supplying the small fraction of energy that goes into automobile transportation is not going to be possible by increasing production of food crops, especially since irrigation water is already in seriously short supply in many areas.

Re:Turbines are fuel guzzlers (4, Insightful)

cheesybagel (670288) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923898)

Do the math. Soybeans have a yield [journeytoforever.org] of 48 gallons/acre per year.

The US uses 378 million gallons of gasoline [doe.gov] per day.

378000000*365/48=2874375000

This means you need 2874.375 million acres if you used soybeans to grow the same amount of fuel. Which is 4.491 million square miles. Well the US has a land area of 3.794 million square miles. So even if you razed the entire US and turned it into a giant soybean field you would not be able to manufacture enough oil.

This is just something I wrote on the back of a napkin. I did not include the higher volumetric energy density of biodiesel as a factor in the calculations. But I did not include the fertilizer manufacturing costs either. Nor did I add the other uses of petroleum to these calculations.

You can use other things than soybean oil. Like peanuts, rapeseed, or jatropha. But you will still need to devote more land area to fuel production than the total land area used for farming in the US to produce this amount of fuel. Crop fuels can only supply a fraction of the total demand.

If you use crop fuels you will need to reduce fuel consumption, reduce the number of cars and miles driven, or use some other measure of rationing the supply. Since we live in a market economy this simply means the price of fuel will rise a lot. The middle class would likely stop being able to own cars.

The end result is that what you will see in the market, if we run out of conventional petroleum, will be oil made from tar sands, natural gas to liquids, coal to liquids, or some other cheap fuel. Not vegetable oil.

Oh and ethanol is even worse.

Re:Turbines are fuel guzzlers (1)

lxs (131946) | more than 3 years ago | (#33924020)

So even if you razed the entire US and turned it into a giant soybean field you would not be able to manufacture enough oil.

On the plus side, there would be no place left for cars, so total fuel consumption would go down. You'd only need enough to power the combine harvesters.

Re:Turbines are fuel guzzlers (1)

Ritz_Just_Ritz (883997) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923630)

Actually, no. The higher combustion temps associated with turbines increases fuel efficiency. The thing to do would be to tune the size/output of a small turbine to act as a generator and then use electric motors to propel the car. I suspect this hasn't been done due to the cost/complexity of a small turbine engine rather than a lack of fuel efficiency.

Re:Turbines are fuel guzzlers (1)

Ironsides (739422) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923640)

Turbines are fuel guzzlers It would make your sedan's fuel consumption put an HMMWV to shame

You got a source for that? Your standard Gasoline engine is 20-25% efficient. Gas turbines have are over 60% efficient. That's one reason they are used in power plants.

Re:Turbines are fuel guzzlers (1)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923716)

Turbines are fuel guzzlers It would make your sedan's fuel consumption put an HMMWV to shame

You got a source for that? Your standard Gasoline engine is 20-25% efficient. Gas turbines have are over 60% efficient. That's one reason they are used in power plants.

FTFA:

Aircraft turbines consume six to eight times as much air as a piston engine; in the process, they devour fuel like sharks in a school of tuna

Re:Turbines are fuel guzzlers (2, Funny)

iluvcapra (782887) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923826)

they devour fuel like sharks in a school of tuna

"Sharks in a school of tuna" is sorta imprecise, could you give us the fuel efficiency in Libraries of Congress?

Re:Turbines are fuel guzzlers (2, Funny)

hahiss (696716) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923906)

Or rods to hogsheads, at the very least.

Re:Turbines are fuel guzzlers (1)

iluvcapra (782887) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923984)

7 hectares on a single liter of kerosene.

Re:Turbines are fuel guzzlers (2, Interesting)

cheesybagel (670288) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923746)

Gas turbines with that level of efficiency are built using different construction techniques so they can run at a higher temperature. Since it is for a stationary application you can afford making the turbine very heavy. You can also use more fragile ceramics which do not handle the vibrations of a moving vehicle very well. Then they are cooled using water cooling towers. They are basically using a river as a cooling source.

In a car you cannot use such cooling mechanisms. You basically use air cooling. You cannot make the engine too heavy because you will decrease mileage per gallon.

Try checking out the operational range for vehicles with gas turbines like the M1 and T-80 tanks versus the Leopard 2 and T-84 tanks which use regular diesel engines.

It is not impossible to do a viable turbine car. But it will probably have to be a hybrid in order to reduce idle power fuel consumption, use more advanced lightweight construction materials and techniques.

Re:Turbines are fuel guzzlers (2, Interesting)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923838)

Gas turbines have are over 60% efficient.

As far as I know, efficiencies that high are only possible in a combined cycle application where you also add a huge steam turbine powered by the exhaust heat of the gas turbine. The gas turbine by itself is not as efficient as a good diesel engine, and gas turbine efficiency scales with size. By definition, an automotive turbine is going to be small and inefficient.

Re:Turbines are fuel guzzlers (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33923948)

I can confirm this - a "normal" gas turbine is somewhere in the 25% - 30% efficient range (for producing electricity) however when you add a Heat Recovery Steam Generator (HRSG) on the back side, using the hot air from the turbine, the over-all numbers can jump to 80%+. As it is, I think even the new GE turbines which incorporate an intercooler only reach about 40%, and that is really good.

Re:Turbines are fuel guzzlers (1)

dunkelfalke (91624) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923912)

Gas turbines are used in peaking power plants because they are able to start up very fast. They almost never are used for base load because their efficency sucks.

Re:Turbines are fuel guzzlers (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923690)

It would make your sedan's fuel consumption put an HMMWV to shame.

Depends where you live. People are used to city/hwy MPG numbers where hwy is about 10 to 20 percent higher than city. With a turbine, and its remarkably poor idle performance, city would end up small fraction of hwy. Of course turbines are more efficient than reciprocating engines and dramatically lighter... but it would still overall be a loss.

Turbines have the ability (and requirement) to run at crazy fuel/air ratios... The cat converter industry would freak out, not sure if the technology could survive.

I'm estimating you'd go from city/hwy numbers like my current car 25/30 to something like 4/40... My trip home from work could be very stressful because depending on traffic stop-n-go I would either burn half a gallon, or perhaps half the tank.

Re:Turbines are fuel guzzlers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33924378)

@vlm maybe ur shitty car. My #corvette hwy mpg = 2 x city mpg

Reduce dependence? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33923558)

"But government interference, shortsighted regulators, and indifferent corporate leaders each played a role in the demise of a program that could have lessened US.dependence on Middle East oil."

Could have? I suppose. But it's highly unlikely. The fuel efficiency was poor. Reducing imports would have required development of an entirely new fuel stream other than gasoline. That's been a struggle despite many incentives.

Although, if it could run on tequila, I suppose every liquor store automatically turns into a rather expensive fuel station.

Money, is there another reason? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33924030)

Reducing imports would have required development of an entirely new fuel stream other than gasoline. That's been a struggle despite many incentives.

The reason for the USA's continuing dependence on Middle East oil is simply that there were, and still are, far too many very wealthy people with good connections into the US political class (Reps. and Dems. being equally guilty) who are making way too much money off of the USA's addiction to Middle East oil for the concept of US energy independence to become a reality. I don't see it happening until we permanently cross the pain threshold on fuel prices. By then the transition to alternative energy sources will be a painful and expensive one. However, until then conservative middle class America will continue to sing the praises of the Oil companies.

Not gonna happen (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33923566)

What happens to the 60,000 rpm turbine (and associated pieces) in an accident? Not good.

Re:Not gonna happen (3, Insightful)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923600)

What happens to the 60,000 rpm turbine (and associated pieces) in an accident?

I don't know... Maybe about the same as what happens to a 100,000 rpm turbocharger?

Re:Not gonna happen (3, Interesting)

royallthefourth (1564389) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923764)

A turbocharger is tiny compared to a turbine engine so the energy that would need to dissipate is much much larger and some of it could end up dissipating into your skull.

Re:Not gonna happen (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923882)

A turbocharger is tiny compared to a turbine engine so the energy

Depends how you define tiny. Lots of power flows thru a turbocharger... The whole point of using a turbo to compress your air instead of a supercharger, is the supercharger takes about a fifth of engine crankshaft horsepower at full speed, which a turbo instead extracts from the exhaust. Compressing air takes a lot of power!

So, its about as dangerous as installing a turbo that is about five times bigger than normal. A scalable and predictable "danger". The scaling factor is about the same ratio as car vs semi-tractor truck engine size... So, a turbojet car engine should be almost exactly as powerful/dangerous as a conventional semi-tractor diesel truck turbocharger. In other words, pretty much harmless, right up there with being struck by a meteor.

some of it could end up dissipating into your skull.

Well that's just moronic FUD. Could just as well claim my cars piston could spontaneously leap out of the cylinder directly into my skull, as every first responder knows, that happens every time in every car crash...

Re:Not gonna happen (1)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | more than 3 years ago | (#33924072)

Not likely. You are comparing fans designed to blow air into an intake versus fan blades designed as the primary drive of a vehicle. There is a big difference in mass between the two meaning a big difference in kinetic energy being released if a turbocharger blows versus the turbines on a 'jet powered' car. It is probably more like 'maybe about the same as what happens to a jet airplane when a fan blade breaks'; which is usually the utter destruction of the engine and a good chunk of the vehicle. Ever seen what happens to a jet engine with a 'minor failure [youtube.com] ' or a fighter plane when a turbine blade breaks off [youtube.com] ... or even the engine damage that can ensue even when the initial turbine failure is less dramatic [wikipedia.org] (but still causes catastrophic damage in other systems)?

Re:Not gonna happen (1)

Beer_Smurf (700116) | more than 3 years ago | (#33924368)

You are comparing what is comparably a 50000 hp engine to an 150 hp engine.
The amount of energy in the rotating assembly is much closer to a truck turbo than a real jet engine.
The Allison 250 makes 400 to 700 lbs and you can pick it up.
Size that down by two thirds and you can picture the size.

Re:Not gonna happen (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923782)

Depends on the diameter of the turbine and how stout a band is designed into the case. Turbine gensets have been around for many decades in the commercial and military aircraft world.

Modern materials like those used in AFV spall liners are plenty adequate to contain any frags.

Re:Not gonna happen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33923994)

Some people confuse a turbine engine with an actual jet engine. The big ass fan in front of the turbo-fan engines used in commercial airplanes doesn't need to be there cutting people's heads. And a less powerful engine will require of smaller mechanisms for pulling air into the engine.

I would assume that it can be made safe, but I still think there's going to be an asshat making loud noises on the streets to show off his turbine engine which deters me from supporting this idea.

Oil is always "local" interest in US (0)

dragisha (788) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923568)

As long as Middle East countries do not own your oil pumps, rafineries and tanker ships.

Thank god for Government interference (1)

mozumder (178398) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923598)

Because if it wasn't for "government interference", we'd have burned through all the world's oil supply on silly jet cars. /encourages more "government interference"

Reediculous idea (2, Insightful)

Ancient_Hacker (751168) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923606)

Gas turbines are very poorly suited for automobile use.

They're extremely expensive, have mediocre MPG, don't respond quickly to the gas pedal, and the gyroscopic effects are problematic.

That's why they didn't catch on-- no need to look for conspiracies.

A good cocktail (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923612)

gasoline, diesel, kerosene, jet fuel, peanut oil, alcohol, tequila, or perfume

Do you get a lemon or lime with that?

... and some salt?

This would have increased the dependence on Mi (3, Informative)

goldstein (705041) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923614)

The idea that the dependence on "Middle East oil" could have been lessened is seriously misleading. Gas turbine technology is best suited to very large installations. In an internal combustion engine, one needs a high compression ratio to get good thermal efficiency. In a gas turbine engine, this is most easily achieved by making a (very) large engine that runs at a relatively constant speed. There are major practical problems in making small high compression gas turbines (among other things, conventional axial or centrifugal flow compressors do not scale well to small sizes). The result is very poor fuel economy. Chrysler wasn't the only manufacturer to build a gas turbine powered car. Rover built one in the 1950's. At best these efforts demonstrated passable, but not exceptional performance coupled with VERY high fuel consumption. This may not have seemed like a big issue when oil was a few dollars a barrel. It would be completely unacceptable now, even if one allows for the flexibility of being able to use various types of fuels. There just isn't enough of any reasonable alternative fuel to operate existing private and commercial vehicle fleets, especially if there is a massive fuel consumption penalty.

Re:This would have increased the dependence on Mi (1)

sphealey (2855) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923692)

> There are major practical problems in making small high compression gas turbines
> (among other things, conventional axial or centrifugal flow compressors do not
> scale well to small sizes). The result is very poor fuel economy. Chrysler wasn't
> the only manufacturer to build a gas turbine powered car. Rover built one in the
> 1950's. At best these efforts demonstrated passable, but not exceptional performance
> coupled with VERY high fuel consumption.

Not just automobile-sized turbines either; none of the experiments with turbine-powered locomotives in the 1950s and 60s were very successful; although the Union Pacific's (first deployed in 1948!) had plenty of power for the UP's long routes their fuel economy was so poor that they were only competitive when cheap low-grade fuel was available. When the price of even low-grade Bunker C went up after 1973 it was time for the scrap yard. The Norfolk & Western tried various arrangements of coal-burning turbines (both gasified and powered coal), but the complexity of the coal processing equipment and wear on the turbine blades killed those too.

sPh

US oil imports stats (3, Interesting)

majid_aldo (812530) | more than 3 years ago | (#33924004)

not to mention US oil imports from the middle east has never exceeded 20%

http://www.allthebestbits.net/wp-content/uploads/2008/09/us-oil-imports3.gif [allthebestbits.net]

Re:US oil imports stats (1)

RobVB (1566105) | more than 3 years ago | (#33924118)

I don't like to nitpick*, but that chart mentions Saudi Arabia 13% + Iraq 6% + Kuwait 2% = Middle East 21%.

* That was a lie. I love to nitpick.

Re:This would have increased the dependence on Mi (1)

tirefire (724526) | more than 3 years ago | (#33924166)

The idea that the dependence on "Middle East oil" could have been lessened is seriously misleading.

BOY have you got that right. The whole idea of "dependent on Middle East oil" is kind of misleading anyway. Unless you think that all the oil the US gets from within its borders, from Canada, from Mexico, and from Nigeria (the top four suppliers of US crude, listed in descending order) has anything to do with the Middle East.

Turbine Abandonment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33923632)

At least we know that America was as stupid then as it is now.

Nonsense. (1)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923680)

At least we know that America was as stupid then as it is now.

FTFA:

The turbine engines required some unusual manufacturing processes, but the team hoped those issues, which would be quite expensive to resolve, could be addressed after they had proved the viability of the turbine cars.

And ...

So, it looks like to me that production costs would be through the roof and the cars would guzzle gas.

Just because it's cool technology doesn't mean it's practical.

Buy a Capstone and have at it. (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923674)

http://www.capstoneturbine.com/prodsol/ [capstoneturbine.com]

I'm not rich, but some /.ers are. Hang one of these in a hybrid and have at it.

Blame the government crowd???? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33923682)

"But government interference, shortsighted regulators, and indifferent corporate leaders..."????? How about technological issues like hot exhaust gasses coming out the tail of the engine?

Don't you think that, if it actually were technologically feasible and Chrysler was gonna make a bundle of money, that it would happen. I just don't understand how government gets blamed for all the failures of business.

Re:Blame the government crowd???? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33924012)

Because Slashdot is where libertarian trolls go to be ignored.

Well, if not for car, how about a train? (1)

fortfive (1582005) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923700)

Trains don't need rapid acceleration, but they do need efficient cruising speeds...

Re:Well, if not for car, how about a train? (3, Informative)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923754)

Trains don't need rapid acceleration, but they do need efficient cruising speeds...

Only works over flat land with no (slow) cities. I have three male generations of railroad employees in my ancestry... I had some pretty interesting experiences when I was younger, most of which, even back then, probably violated dozens of regulations. Trust me, a railroad engineer out on the mainline works the throttle and brakes at least as much as a car driver in roughly the same terrain. Their arms get tired... "Why does the throttle only have 8 stops?" "Well, you're adjusting it constantly anyway, so why put in more stops?"

Re:Well, if not for car, how about a train? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33924420)

GE did it in the 50's. [wikipedia.org]

Short version:

With a rise in fuel costs (eventually leading to the 1973 oil crisis), gas turbine locomotives became uneconomical to operate, and many were taken out of service. Additionally, Union Pacific's locomotives required more maintenance than originally anticipated, due to fouling of the turbine blades by the Bunker C oil used as fuel.

A let-down (3, Insightful)

ickleberry (864871) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923702)

Currently the trend seems to be towards low-speed driverless centrally controlled 'people pods' rather than anything actually exciting.

Who would have thought we would have diverged from the path of making continually more badass cars towards trying to develop boring things such as the Google ATNMBL [core77.com] .

I suppose whats going on with cars now is a similar to the of taking control from users as in "curated computing". The Chrysler turbine car is a genuinely cool piece of machine, probably my favourite car of all time, I really wouldnt mind seeing it back in limited production despite its lack of practicality.

Turbine technology isn't a complete waste however. A an electric car could have a removable ~30kW microturbine + fuel tank unit for long journeys and use it for storage space or extra batteries for the rest of the time.

Re:A let-down (1)

FullBandwidth (1445095) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923772)

Hey what's not exciting about an automatically-piloted people pod? Then I could get another hour of slashdot in every commute!

Re:A let-down (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923818)

A an electric car could have a removable ~30kW microturbine + fuel tank unit for long journeys and use it for storage space or extra batteries for the rest of the time.

Where do you put it, the passenger seat?

This is probably justification number one zillion for making an electric conversion of a pickup truck rather than a passenger car, you can toss in your homemade generator unit much like one of those pickup truck toolboxes, or maybe just strap down in the bed. I have heard anecdotal stories of converted pickup trucks where the owner literally straps down a genny in the bed and carries the charger along with him... Stop at restaurant every 4 to 6 hours and let the generator putt putt away topping off the battery.

Other reasons to convert a pickup truck instead of a passenger car include:

1) Frame and suspension built to haul immense loads. The suspension doesn't know the difference between a thousand pounds of manure or a thousand pounds of batteries.

2) No one expects great acceleration or cornering performance out of a pickup truck, so no deep seated desire to outperform a Tesla roadster, so the conversion is immensely cheaper / more economical.

3) Before they got yuppified, PU trucks used to be pretty cheap, tough, and non-customized resulting in great parts availability, only on TV does everything work perfect the first time.

4) No one (used to) expect fancy coachwork in a PU truck, ugly dashboard modifications are not the greatest sin in a vehicle that has steel floor and vinyl seats (great idea for a work truck, but not exactly luxurious). No one cares if the A/C doesn't work when the stock vehicle doesn't have A/C anyway. etc. Also makes the conversion cheaper, much like the performance reasoning above. Now, most new PU trucks are yuppie luxury grocery-getters as opposed to work trucks, so I don't know if this theory applies anymore.

Re:A let-down (1)

Nursie (632944) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923942)

Speak for yourself, or your own car.

My car might not look like a badass but I drove 27000K around the outback in her this year. Cars are just becoming more specialised.

If you are a city dweller and all you do is make short drives between different parts of the city, then you get a small, safe, fuel-efficient pod. If you need to cross rivers, climb mountains, tame deserts or take the kids to school, you get a 4x4. They're still awesome when used to do what they're supposed to do.

Luxury and muscle cars are more expensive, the market is in decline due to a lot of factors. The price of fuel is one.

Pretty Sad End (1)

DarkKnightRadick (268025) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923710)

That's a pretty sad end for an awesome sounding car.

My neighbor had one of these (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33923734)

When I was in high school, my neighbor applied to 'test' of "Chrysler's turbine cars for 3 months. She had to write an essay explaining why she wanted to participate. The car was beautifully futuristic for its time and everything else seemed rather pedestrian. She took my brother and I on a ride in it just once. The experience consisted of a tour of the engine compartment, a trip to the newly-opened McDonalds, and a stop to fill up from a kerosene, gravity-fed tank that a local gas station had installed just for this Chrysler. I remember that the car sound like a household vacuum cleaner only a bit louder. You could easily have a conversation while stand next to the car. Inside the car, it was even quieter. Much of the car was fabricated from aluminum and we were warned not to put our weight on places (the tube-like console, for instance) lest we dent it. The car idled at approximately 10,000 RPM and it had a tach, which I remember watching in fascination. The turbine produce approximately 140 HP, so performance was ordinary. Our neighbor was worried about letting the car sit in one spot for too long as the exhaust was hot enough to melt asphalt. The turbine itself was wired against tampering. All the bolts had little wires threaded through the heads that were then attached to the component the bolt was used in. The car drove quite normally and the only indication it was powered by anything other the a standard IC engine was the vacuum cleaner-like sound it produced.

 

Re:My neighbor had one of these (4, Interesting)

Nos. (179609) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923952)

I remember Dad telling me about these cars, and specifically the exhaust issue you mentioned. Originally the exhaust pointed straight out the back, however if some pedestrian were to walk behind the car they would end up with severe burns very quickly. As such, they aimed the exhaust downwards, but then you had the issue you mentioned about melting the asphalt.

Re:My neighbor had one of these (3, Informative)

Deadstick (535032) | more than 3 years ago | (#33924062)

The turbine itself was wired against tampering. All the bolts had little wires threaded through the heads that were then attached to the component the bolt was used in.

Those are called safety wires; they prevent bolts and nuts loosening under vibration. You'll find them all over an airplane, too.

If you were in a tampering mood, you'd need some super high-tech equipment to get past those wires: a pair of diagonal cutters and a coil of safety wire.

rj

Re:My neighbor had one of these (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 3 years ago | (#33924158)

The turbine itself was wired against tampering. All the bolts had little wires threaded through the heads that were then attached to the component the bolt was used in.

Wiring the bolt heads is pretty standard in high vibration environments, anti-tamper is just a bonus.

The Brits did it first (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33923736)

And better [bbc.co.uk]

The Rover Gas Turbine car. [rover.org.nz]

And they even took part in the Le Mans 24 Hour [wikipedia.org] race more than once too.

Two Rover gas-turbime cars (T3 and 4) survive in running order, Jet-1 is in the London Science Museum.

Looking at the Chrysler [wikipedia.org] effort, it looks like a "Jetsons" futuristic affair, the Rover cars looked like completely conventional cars of the time - indeed the T4 body shape was to see the roads as the P6 Rover 2000.

You know, you'd think the bloody Yanks invented the jet engine [wikipedia.org] too......

You know what else would prevent oil dependence? (1)

royallthefourth (1564389) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923756)

Maintaining the streetcar systems instead of dismantling them and not incentivizing suburbanization would've been a better idea than some stupid jet car

But... (1)

Lead Butthead (321013) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923908)

Maintaining the streetcar systems instead of dismantling them and not incentivizing suburbanization would've been a better idea than some stupid jet car

Except GM dismantled most of them so they can sell more buses.

turbine to electric (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923762)

There is a problem with these engines in that they don't idle. So how about using them to generate electric energy and store it in the car and then use that electric energy to run the electric motors?

The car wouldn't need to have the turbine on all the time, only to generate enough power for the next hour or so and store it into the batteries or flywheels. Actually turbine could be used to accelerate flywheels much faster than topping up electrical batteries.

Want to See One? (2, Interesting)

Thumper_SVX (239525) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923774)

If you want to see one of these fantastic cars, there's one on display at the St. Louis Museum of Transportation. I love that place; loads of trains, cars and all manner of awesome transportation stuff (even some boats)... and one of the turbine cars is still on display there. I ended up signing up for a membership to the place because my 10 year old son loved it so much.

I think the technology in this thing was awesome... hell, I even love the styling in a retro sort of way. I would have jumped at the opportunity to buy and own a turbine powered car... and though I'm sure the fuel mileage wasn't fantastic, the fact that it could run on just about anything meant that you could have filled it up with whatever was cheapest at the time and used that to get to work. I'm sure that might still happen again; the age of the turbine car may only be in limbo... not over.

Jay Leno has a turbine powered motorbike as well (http://www.bikemenu.com/turbine.html). I remember reading an article he wrote about it that made me laugh; that it was often interesting to sit at a set of lights and look in the rear view mirror and watch the front bumper of the car behind him melting because of the heat output...

Ah, you know what else is dead from that era? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33923796)

Space Nuttery. The ludicrous ideas like:
1) Colonies on the Moon and/or Mars. Completely ridiculous; there's nothing there. Getting there is already a feat in itself.
2) Giant space stations... Tin cans barely above LEO are about the best we can do. Guess what? Our bodies aren't meant for free-fall for prolonged periods.
3) Space-based solar power... Utterly impractical, electricity is cheap already on Earth, you can't justify using 10 units of energy to build and deploy such a structure to get one unit back.
4) Asteroid mining... So utterly fantastical and deluded. As long as there are third world countries with cheap labor and poor safety practices, it's always cheaper to send poor people digging than rich countries launching entire mining operations into space. Also, there's nothing up there that we don't already have down here.

The lesson here is that there are limits. Limits were something the post-WWII, cheap energy and war-driven technology society didn't really think about. The zenith of that attitude was Apollo 11. Which was awesome and everything, but really, space is so utterly huge and empty and desolate, and we are so small, powerless and fragile.

So here we are, social-networking with tiny transistors, but still using the same roads, houses, cars and planes as back then, with improvements, sure, but the "giant leaps" era that the 20th century represented is over. Will there be a similar jump from local horse-based transportation to nation-wide car networks? If so, what is it?

the OPOC shows better promise. (1)

funwithBSD (245349) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923804)

The OPOC engine shows more promise for a sudden breakthrough in fuel economy.

Lighter, less moving parts and runs on diesel.

Initial it is being designed for trucks and large vehicles, but coupled with a CVT or even as the engine of a hybrid, smaller models would be ideal for autos.

http://www.autoinsane.com/2009/03/09/news/tech/video-revolutionary-opposed-cylinder-opposed-piston-engine/ [autoinsane.com]

The problem WAS coupling to the wheels... (4, Interesting)

wowbagger (69688) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923878)

The biggest problem with turbine powered cars was coupling to the wheels. Turbines have two unfortunate properties that make them very unsuited to directly driving the wheels of a car:
1) They spin far too fast, so you have to have a transmission to slow that down.
2) they don't like to slow down too much, so you have to have some means to clutch them so starting from a stop won't stall them.

In applications like helicopters, that's not a big deal: once you have the rotors turning, you'd like to keep them turning.

But for cars it was a deal-breaker.

I highlight was because there is a better idea on the block:

http://www.capstoneturbine.com/prodsol/solutions/hev.asp [capstoneturbine.com]

The idea Capstone has is that you have a single spindle turbine, with a generator on the same shaft as the turbine. There is no mechanical coupling of torque to the wheels - the system makes electricity. That works well with an electric drive train - electric motors have no problems with making torque at zero RPM, they have a wide torque band that reduces or eliminates the need for a transmission, and the turbine can be started and stopped as needed to maintain the batteries. The Capstone turbines don't need lubrication as they use air bearings, and they meet or beat all the air quality standards on the books or planned to be on the books, running on diesel.

I just hope somebody gets smart, and makes a van chassis on this tech, with different bodies for Suzy Soccermom, UPS, Class-C motorhomes, and basic transportation, that uses heat pumps + resistive heating for climate control (so that it can run off the traction battery without needing to run the turbine to make heat), and that gives me access to 120VAC@50A from the traction batteries (plus an inverter, naturally) so that I can use it for camping as needed.

(no, I neither work for nor own stock in Capstone - I just think this is the way things need to go.)

60's cars (1)

fermion (181285) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923888)

Most 60's American cars no longer exist. Nostalgia makes us sad that they do not exist. OTOH, we now are quite aware that there is nothing like a free lunch. The issue is not just changing energy sources every time there is a crisis, but using those energy sources more efficiently.

I have often this was also an issue with a hover car. If we are constantly providing a normal force to keep the car, say, 50 centimeters above the ground, then for a typical car this would be 5000 joules or W*s. Given the standard inefficiencies, a gallon of gas might give one 20-30 minutes of flight. Around here where many people commute an hour, this would add 20 gallons a week to consumption, which would more than double the fuel needed. As this energy consumption would rise linearly with mass, this doubling relationship would persist. Aa such we have a cool technology that makes no sense from an energy point of view.

Re:60's cars (1)

mbone (558574) | more than 3 years ago | (#33924236)

I think, though, that the real thing that killed the hover car was that it was hard to control. Turning was hard, and so was braking, as you weren't able to use friction with the ground. The result was that hovercraft at speed need lots of room to maneuver . That's OK for a ferry, but not desirable if you want to use them on roads.

Pah (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33923922)

"George Huebner pointed out that the Environmental Protection Agency required tailpipe emissions to be cleaner than the ambient air".

The old scheme: If you do not like it, ridicule it by making unfair comparisons in some metric making it sound absurd.

(My favorites are comparing bacterial pollution of something with a normal toilet. Now if it had more bacteria than a keyboard, then *I* would be scared..)

Jaguar is working on a hybrid turbine/electric car (1)

AC-x (735297) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923936)

This approach (using battery power topped up by a small turbine) would seem to make more sense given turbine engine characteristics (poor idle performance etc.)

http://hardware.slashdot.org/story/10/10/01/0039240/Jaguars-Hybrid-Jet-Powered-Concept-Car?from=rss [slashdot.org]

Hydrogen (1)

RazorSharp (1418697) | more than 3 years ago | (#33923940)

I once challenged an engineer buddy to come up with a working concept for a hydrogen car and he cited turbines that generated power for electric motors at each individual wheel (because the turbine always has a consistent amount of fuel flowing from it, your throttle wouldn't regulate fuel but the electric motors). It makes sense, but they're quite a different beast than traditional piston-rod motors. While technically it wouldn't be too difficult, economic and logistical factors are the great barriers. Safety is another factor. He didn't seem too concerned about it, but hydrogen can make a hell of an explosion.

Whether it would work or not, that's the type of outside-the-box thinking our car manufacturers need today. The idea of electric cars is just stupid unless you live in an area provided with nuclear power. Where I live the power is provided by a coal plant. Am I really supposed to believe that it's better for the environment to plug my car in and burn a fossil fuel at a foreign site than within the car itself? Sure, there are problems associated with getting hydrogen in cars, but no one seems to even be trying.

Dead idea for a reason (3, Interesting)

Maury Markowitz (452832) | more than 3 years ago | (#33924024)

> How different would America be now if we all drove turbine-powered cars

LOL. A turbine uses between 60 and 70% of it's full-throttle fuel use while standing still. The compressor soaks up a lot of power. They're fine for systems that operate at high power levels all the time, or where power-to-weight is the only major consideration, but for auto use they're useless. Hybrids fix this, but they didn't have LiIon batteries in the 50/60's.

> single spindle turbine, with a generator on the same shaft as the turbine

Use a Wankel. All the same advantages. They're even replacing turbines for APUs.

Maury

No dependence (3, Interesting)

Jerry Rivers (881171) | more than 3 years ago | (#33924066)

Dependence on Mideast oil? That's bullshit. The majority of U.S. comes from Canada, Mexico and Nigeria. It could stop importing oil from the Mideast tomorrow if it really wanted to, but doesn't probably for political reasons.

http://www.eia.doe.gov/pub/oil_gas/petroleum/data_publications/company_level_imports/current/import.html [doe.gov]

Buckminster Fuller's Dymaxium car (1933) (4, Interesting)

PatPending (953482) | more than 3 years ago | (#33924418)

From Wikipedia (emphasis added):

The Dymaxion car [wikipedia.org] was a concept car designed by U.S. inventor and architect Buckminster Fuller in 1933.] The word Dymaxion is a brand name that Fuller gave to several of his inventions, to emphasize that he considered them part of a more general project to improve humanity's living conditions. The car had a fuel efficiency of 30 miles per US gallon. It could transport 11 passengers. While Fuller claimed it could reach speeds of 120 miles per hour, the fastest documented speed was 90 miles per hour.

Then there is this:

In his 1988 book The Age of Heretics, author Art Kleiner maintained that the real reason why Chrysler refused to produce the car was because bankers had threatened to recall their loans, feeling that the car would destroy sales for vehicles already in the distribution channels and second-hand cars.

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