In 2010 Jaguar unveiled a stunning new supercar concept called the C-X75, which was powered by an advanced range-extended electric drivetrain that relied on a pair of gas-powered ‘microturbines’ to top up the vehicle’s batteries.
Then, early last year, Jaguar gave its C-X75 the production green light with a view to launch the car in late 2013.
Unfortunately, given the infancy of microturbine technology in the automotive sector, Jaguar was forced to make the decision that it would initially launch the production version of its C-X75 with a conventional turbocharged engine acting as the range-extender but would continue to develop the microturbine for future use.
Apart from reliability issues, one of the biggest hindrances to the use of the microturbine is the high levels of heat it produces. Initial testing has shown that just to provide sufficient cooling for the twin-microturbine setup, a car would need roughly 16.8 square-feet of air intakes, which is more than the entire frontal area of the C-X75’s original’s design.
For this, and other reasons, Jaguar’s global brand director Adrian Hallmark has revealed to Inside Line that the microturbine-powered C-X75s will be built only as experimental cars, or proof of concepts, designed strictly for track use only.
Jaguar’s insistence to develop the technology is admirable, but there are a lot of benefits to be gained as well. First, the microturbines weigh only 77 pounds each, so the pair weighs significantly less than a conventional engine. They’ve also got fewer moving parts, and they don’t require conventional water cooling or lubrication systems, either.
Jaguar, with the help of its parent company Tata, recently opened a new factory in Coventry, England to build microturbines for the C-X75. Called the Bladon Jets Engineering Center, the facility employs 15 people to develop the new technology.
The good news is that Jaguar’s engineers have managed to install the microturbines and their elaborate exhaust systems into the C-X75 body with only minimal revisions to the original design. They have also found that the engines’ idle-speed exhaust temperatures aren’t much higher than a conventional car’s temps.
The production version due next year, however, will rely on a turbocharged four-cylinder engine developed together with Cosworth and the Williams F1 team. The tiny engine will displace 1.6 liters and may develop as much as 313 horsepower per liter of displacement, meaning a peak output close to 500 horsepower.
The first C-X75 prototypes are expected to hit the test-track in the middle of this year.