Capstone Turbine Corporation a leading clean technology manufacturer of microturbine energy systems announced last week that it has initiated a demonstration project with a major U.S. manufacturer of Class 5 through Class 8 heavy-duty trucks. The demonstrator will utilize a Capstone 65kW microturbine as a clean, efficient range extender in a hybrid electric drive system. This truck will be the first to use the complete Capstone Drive Solution, which includes the Capstone microturbine along with liquid cooled power electronics, permanent magnet traction drive motor and vehicle power control system.

Capstone Micro Turbine and Electrcity Equipment Overlay. Click image for the largest view.

Capstone released configurations of the C30 (30 kW) microturbine as a range extender meeting California Air Resources Board (CARB) requirements for New On-Road Heavy-Duty Engines for Urban Bus – Hybrid service with no emissions aftertreatment.

The question afoot is replacing a 40-45% thermal efficient continuous speed diesel engine with an unrecuperated gas turbine engine at 20-30% efficiency a good idea.  Small micro-turbines seem to be as efficient and run as cleanly (if not more so) than the internal combustion engines currently used for hybrid electric gensets.  Mass production in the millions would drive down the costs.  It’s a demonstration worth a review.

In total efficiency turbos win.  For thermal efficiency a diesel would win, but add in the mechanical efficiency and the turbo wins.  Internal combustion with pistons, rods, cranks, and the valve gear generate lots of friction and resistance.  And turbines weigh much less allowing for more battery or capacitor capacity.

The design characteristics of Capstone’s turbine permits ultra-low emissions, high-fuel economy, multi-fuel capability, no coolants or lubricating oil, and little to no maintenance in hybrid electric vehicle applications.

Another angle is the fuel, turbines can use a much wider range of products than a diesel, permitting much more versatility in choice and cost control.

Capstone’s microturbine technology offers many benefits, including an extremely low emission levels that meet the most stringent CARB and EPA 2010 requirements without any exhaust after-treatment. That’s a major point alone.

Capstone Micro Turbine Generation Set Block Diagram. Click image for the largest view.

As part of a recent joint development agreement with CalMotors, the Capstone hybrid electric vehicle product offering will now include inverter drives, traction motors and a vehicle power control module that will seamlessly integrate with Capstone 30kW and 65kW microturbines.

The inverters and traction motors are mobile hardened versions of the well-proven Parker Hannifin industrial motor drive products. The Capstone microturbines are able to operate on traditional liquid fuels such as diesel and biodiesel but can also utilize alternative fuels such as natural gas without sacrificing efficiency.

Jim Crouse, Executive Capstone VP of Sales and Marketing said in the press release, “This demonstration project is the first of several vehicle applications we are working on that will use the new Capstone Drive Solution. The other projects include Class 4 commercial trucks and Class 8 tractors and utilize both new OEM applications like this one and retrofits to existing vehicles. We are also pursuing marine applications for both auxiliary power and propulsion. Our new Capstone Drive Solution offering will open a lot of opportunities for electric drive systems where our ultra-low emissions and high efficiency have an advantage over more traditional prime movers.”

Darren Jamison, Capstone President and CEO offers, “A successful demonstration of the Capstone Drive Solution in this heavy duty truck application can have significant market impact. It is for this reason that the OEM truck manufacturer we are partnering with has decided not to be named at this point. However we expect that the demonstration phase will be successful and that key customers will begin to appreciate the many positive benefits of the Capstone Drive Solution. Our OEM partner is prepared to make this development more public once they confirm the performance and customer reaction.”

Still, one wonders who the OEM manufacturer leader is.

Capstone already has a Model C30 liquid fueled microturbine successfully integrated into a Ford S-Max people carrier done by Langford Performance Engineering in the United Kingdom. Langford reports that the “Whisper Eco-Logic” car gets up to 80 mpg in early stage demonstration testing.

Light weight, multifuel, low emissions, very high efficiency, no coolants, little or no lubrication oil, and a dramatically lower maintenance cost – micro turbines have a bright future when the unit cost comes down.


14 Comments so far

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  4. Tobyw on December 27, 2010 9:04 AM

    Diesels tend to be more efficient at low to part output and Capstones tend to be most efficient at half to full output, so the comparison is not entirely fair. The diesel will likely weigh considerably more, a consideration in a vehicle.

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  10. François Lavigne on April 12, 2015 7:04 PM

    Very interresting post the most efficient way to use the gas turbine is at constant speed and at arount 90% of it,s maximum power. I Wonder if the pressure ratio of that small gas turbine is well above 4 to 1 to make te use of heat récupérator unnessesary? Is it powerfull enouf for truck performances since it replace about 400 HP diesel? Each truck weels can be driven by an électric motor not in the Wheel itself doing away with différential and permetting maximum braking énergy récupération. There is space for improvement. Keep on the good work.

  11. Antwi Kingsley on June 20, 2015 9:46 PM

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  12. afshar badrloo on November 21, 2016 7:57 AM

    vary good

  13. Ed Pheil on November 26, 2017 6:47 PM

    I’m glad to see someone e doing this. I have been waiting for years to hear of it. It had to happen. Level loading engines allow peak optimization of the engine, and reduce wear and tear. Reducing moving parts is an added benefit!

    Maybe a faster start, cleaner, longer lasting, lower maintenance, therefore lower cost, more reliable backup power for nuclear plants yet to boot

  14. Commercial Plumber on March 26, 2019 5:02 AM

    very good article.
    Am not sure this units will ever make it main stream as a lot of this type of units are quite expensive to produce. but great concept for the future.

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