Wrightspeed Inc., a developer of range-extended electric vehicle powertrains for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles (earlier post), has unveiled the Fulcrum, a new proprietary turbine generator for use in its Route family of electric powertrains (Route for Class 3-6, Route HD for Class 7-8). The new 80 kW Fulcrum is a radial inflow, axial turbine, intercooled and recuperated. Fulcrum is a single shaft machine, the generator runs at turbine speed (~100,000 rpm). Weighing in at 250 lbs (113.4 kg), the Fulcrum is approximately 1/10th the weight of its piston generator counterparts and it is designed to have a 10,000-hour lifetime.
The use of microturbines in autos has been explored for a long time, with a number of manufacturers actively exploring the potential shortly after World War II: these included Rover in the UK; Fiat’s Turbina, introduced in 1954; a Chrysler Plymouth prototype turbine car also introduced in 1954; GM with its Firebird prototypes, also introduced in the early 1950s; and the limited production run Chrysler Turbine Cars, introduced from 1962-1964.
The Japanese began a 100 kW automotive ceramic gas turbine (CGT) project in 1990 and concluded it in 1997. The US Department of Energy (DOE) in the 2000s ran a cooperatively funded, multi-path technology development program called the advanced microturbine system (AMTS).