Capstone Turbine Corporation—a company normally known for making microturbines that provide back-up power for industrial and commercial operations—has built a prototype extended-range, diesel-electric supercar that has a 0-60 mph time of 3.9 seconds, a top speed of 150 mph and can go 80 miles on battery power alone before a diesel-powered microturbine kicks on and charges the battery on the fly for an additional 420 miles on one tank of fuel.
The CMT-380 prototype supercar will be making its in-the-flesh debut at the LA Auto Show this week. It’s still in the design and test phase, according to a Capstone press release, and was developed in partnership with Electronic Arts Chief Creative Director Richard Hilleman. I’ll have a chance to chat with Mr. Hilleman at the LA Auto Show on Thursday, and I’ll be sure to ask him how he ended up designing a car for Capstone.
The supercar uses a Capstone C30 (30-kilowatt) microturbine that runs on diesel or biodiesel, and doesn’t need any exhaust treatment to meet the 2010 emissions requirements of the California Air Resources Board or EPA. According to a company statement, the diesel fueled microturbine also requires less maintenance than traditional combustion engines. The C30 features an electric generator and turbine components mounted on a single shaft, which is supported by air bearings—meaning there are no liquids needed to lubricate or cool the microturbine.
According to company materials forwarded to me by a Capstone representative, when operating in battery-only mode the CMT-380 gets 5.26 miles per kilowatt hour (mpkWh) in the city and 4.55 mpkWh on the highway—both very respectable battery efficiencies. After the battery has been depleted and the diesel microturbine kicks on to charge the battery, the supercar achieves 44 mpg in the city and 38 mpg on the highway.
Turbine engines are known to be quite loud, but the company claims that the C30 microturbines are “essentially like having an ultra-clean and quiet jet engine under the hood.” Quiet relative to what, I’d like to know? Even a quiet jet engine is too loud to have a conversation around, but I’m guessing this microturbine is a lot quieter than that. It would have to be for it to be viable.
“Capstone’s CMT-380 is just now finishing up the conceptual design and first article testing stage,” said Darren Jamison, Capstone President and CEO in a statement. “We plan to finalize very soon a limited production plan, in part, based on interest received at the LA Auto Show. We anticipate customers will be a select group of individuals who appreciate its many innovative high-performance and high-technology driving characteristics, long driving range and ultra-low emissions.”