Wrightspeed Adds ‘Fulcrum’ Turbine
Addition Makes ‘Route’ Extended-Range Driveline 100% Proprietary,
Will Speed the Transition of Road Vehicles to Turbine Power, Firm Says
“Powerful like a jet, and clean like a windmill,” says California’s Wrightspeed, describing the new, fuel-versatile Fulcrum turbine engine it’s making an intrinsic part of its Route brand plug-in hybrid electric driveline for trucks.
“Wrightspeed now owns 100% of the intellectual property of its powertrain products,” the company says. “Each component of every Wrightspeed powertrain is engineered from the ground up to systematically deliver ideal performance.”
The 80-kilowatt Fulcrum weighs just 250 pounds, about one-tenth the weight of an equivalent piston engine. It is designed to have a 10,000 hour lifetime, Wrightspeed says, and to meet California Air Resources Board emissions limits with no catalytic converter.
‘Turbines Will Begin to Replace Piston Engines’
And, because the turbine serves only to charge the battery pack on Wrightspeed’s series driveline, it can run at its cleanest and most efficient operating point: “We don’t care about its efficiency at idle,” says Wrightspeed founder and CEO Ian Wright – dismissing a chronic problem for automotive turbines.
“We believe turbines will begin to replace piston engines in range-extended electric vehicle applications,” he says.
“This an inflection point,” Wright told F&F. “You’re going to see turbines take over in wheeled vehicles the way they took over in aircraft.”
Wrightspeed placed two of its trucks with Capstone turbines with FedEx last year, and according to Wright, the 25 additional vehicles on order will have the Fulcrum turbine.
Likewise, 17 model year 2003-2006 Freightliner and Condor collection trucks operated by the Santa Rosa, Calif.-based Ratto Group (F&F, January 27) will be converted to PHEV operation using the Fulcrum. The project has a double environmental benefit in that fuel will be saved and that trucks that would otherwise be junked will instead be kept working, says COO Lou Ratto. He spoke at the Waste Disposal, Construction Fleets, & Work Trucks session yesterday afternoon.
A two-stage compression process and unique recuperation design make the Fulcrum 30% more efficient than existing turbine generators, Wrightspeed says, “while tripling usable power.” Fulcrum’s “multi-fuel capabilities allow it to burn diesel, CNG, LNG, landfill gases, biodiesel, kerosene, propane, heating oil, and others,” the company adds.
Wrightspeed designs its own traction motors, too. The company uses lithium iron phosphate battery from A123 in its own liquid-cooled battery packs.