China unveils new turbine electric supercar

Claimed peak power output of 1,030 hp and range of over 2,000 km

Published: March 1, 2016, 12:30 PM
Updated: November 23, 2021, 2:51 PM

Techrules AT96 TREV supercar concept

China dives into supercar waters at the Geneva Motor Show with an innovative series hybrid powered electric vehicle featuring an onboard turbine generator.

Techrules, a new Beijing-based automotive research and development company, has unveiled its Turbine Recharging Electric Vehicle (TREV) technology boasting outlandish claims of peak power output and driving range, and claiming it will be on the road in widely disparate vehicles within a couple years.

“The TREV system is a perfect combination of micro turbine and electric vehicle technologies,” said William Jin, the founder and CEO of Techrules. “It is highly efficient, produces very low emissions and provides an optimal charging solution for electric vehicles. We believe it may redefine how the next generation of electric vehicles is powered.”

First to market will be a low-volume supercar shown here (with higher run of city cars coming in subsequent years), with a claimed peak power output of 1,030 hp and range of over 2,000 km (150 km on electricity alone). The catch is that it does it on 80 litres of aviation kerosene, though the company claims it will achieve similar results from a fuel with an equivalent calorific value.

Using a micro-turbine developed from aviation and power-generation industries, Techrules projects the supercar is capable of zero to 100 km/h in about 2.5 seconds, with a top speed capped at 350 km/h and an overall economy rating equal to 0.18 L/100 km (and 4.8 L/100 fuel consumption from the turbine generator). Testing is reportedly underway at the UK’s Silverstone circuit.

“Because turbines have always been a very inefficient way to convert chemical energy into useful wheel turning mechanical energy, only a few have tried to use a turbine in the powertrain system, and none have succeeded commercially,” said Matthew Jin, Techrules Chief Technology Officer. “But, with electric vehicles, an electric motor is used to drive the wheels, which effectively frees the combustion engine to exclusively convert chemical energy into mechanical energy and finally into electric energy.”

He adds that micro turbines are also more efficient than piston engines as range extenders, because significantly less energy is sacrificed in frictional losses. The Techrules turbine does not directly drive the wheels, but rather the turbine shaft powers the generator that produces the electricity to drive the wheels. The turbine and the generator share the same shaft, turning in excess of 96,000 rpm.

The turbine produces 36 kW, with 30 kW powering the generator to charge the Lithium-Manganese-Oxide batteries, and 6 kW directly powering auxiliary equipment. The entire range extender system (turbine, inverters, fuel pumps, air pumps, and generator) weighs just 100 kg.

The test mule is a 2-seat, all wheel drive, carbonfibre-bodied high-performance coupe (designated AT96 and GT96) weighing in at 1,380 kg (though the company wants to shave 380 kg off by the time it goes into production). The turbine is housed behind the cabin in a mid-engine configuration (ahead of the rear wheels). Visually identifiable by a large rear wing, the AT96 features a microturbine that runs on liquid fuel (aviation kerosene, in this case, but theoretically also able to use diesel or gasoline). The road-going hypercar GT96 uses biogas or natural gas to power its turbine.

The 2,376 cell, T-shaped, liquid-cooled 20 kWh battery can naturally be plugged in to recharge, and can reportedly be fully recharged by the microturbine generator in about 40 minutes. It stores the electricity to power six electric motors — one at each front wheel and two at each rear wheel — each weighing 13 kg and offering overall torque of 6,300 lb-ft at the wheels.

Large ventilated discs (405 mm in front and 380 mm at the rear) bring the car to a standstill in a hurry.