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Jaguar Land Rover wins funding for gas turbine electric vehicle

A consortium including Jaguar Land Rover, led by micro gas turbine company Bladon Jets, has secured investment to develop a gas turbine generator that could act as a range extender for next generation electric vehicles.

The aim is to produce the world’s first commercially viable – and environmentally friendly – gas turbine generator designed specifically for automotive applications.

The funding for the Ultra Lightweight Range Extender (ULRE) is coming from the Technology Strategy Board, through a £15 million funding competition to support the advancement of the mass adoption of low carbon vehicles.

The ULRE will incorporate a Bladon Jets patented, axial flow gas turbine engine coupled to a high-speed generator using technology from SR Drives.

Design of the ULRE’s packaging for vehicle integration will be overseen by Jaguar Land Rover, who will call on their long experience of developing innovative automotive technologies – including the Rover gas turbine cars produced in the 1950s and ’60s.

Bladon Jets says that its small multi-fuel gas turbine engines are more efficient, less polluting and lower cost than the 100 year old reciprocating engines used in the majority of cars today, and are ideally suited for use in hybrid electric vehicles. The company claims that its product is five per cent of the size, weight and number of parts of an equivalent piston engine.

A gas turbine-driven generator can be operated continuously at its optimum speed, with any excess power being used to charge the batteries of a hybrid electric vehicle – so providing an on-board power source, or ‘range extender’, for a such a vehicle.

Perhaps the new technology will be trialled in the forthcoming Range Rover LRX, which is promised to be the company’s greenest product to date.

This announcement came at the same time as the news that Jaguar Land Rover’s Chief Executive Officer, David Smith, was departing.