Does the Batmobile hold the key to the engine of the future?

A new concept car to be unveiled at the Los Angeles Auto Show could herald a new era in efficient engine design -- by placing a jet engine under the hood.

(Relaxnews) -

A new concept car to be unveiled at the Los Angeles Auto Show could herald a new era in efficient engine design - by placing a jet engine under the hood.

Capstone Turbine Corp. plans to unveil the CMT-380, a hybrid-electric vehicle powered by traditional batteries and a range-extending "microturbine" engine. Claiming to be capable of 0-60 mph (0-97 km/h) in under four seconds, the CMT-380 is billed as a successful example of the integration of gas turbine power and hybrid design.

The hybrid runs predominantly on power from lithium-polymer batteries, with the turbine providing enough recharge capacity on-the-go for a further 500 miles on a single fuel tank. If the predictions are correct and achievable, the CMT-380 would easily outstrip the range of any hybrid model on the market. Capstone claims that the emissions are clean enough to meet stringent U.S. government clean air requirements.

The company plans to gauge interest at Los Angeles, traditionally viewed as a forward-looking show. Based on the response, a limited production plan will be finalized, allowing Capstone to further explore the potential of the technology with automakers from around the world. Earlier this year, UK-based Langford Performance Engineering confirmed that it had successfully integrated a microturbine into a Ford S-Max vehicle.

"It's not in Capstone's business plan to start manufacturing complete cars," said Darren Jamison, Capstone President and CEO. "However, the limited production CMT-380 and Langford Whisper hybrid-demonstration vehicle are intended to showcase the technology and demonstrate the value proposition of microturbines as electric-vehicle range extenders."

Turbines are not new in automotive production, although the potential for their use as hybrid range-extenders is only just becoming clear. Chrysler, General Motors, Toyota and Honda have all released concepts or prototypes using gas turbines for power, and the production department of the 1989 Batman film built a working gas turbine vehicle as a prop.

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