Mar 18

Wrightspeed’s series hybrid is ‘cleaner than an EV’

 

Some of you may recall this tech not long ago, but I thought the argument that it can be less polluting all things considered than a pure BEV was interesting.

If the Volt gets itself a super low emission genet for gen 2, how would it compare to Leaf powering off the grid in West Virginia?

There’s little likelihood GM will spec a turbine like the trash truck does, but that one is off the charts low emission, and Ian Wright’s assertion seems valid, and an unusual twist.

668xNxSeries-hybrid.jpg,Mic_.cOYNe4Ngqo.jpg.pagespeed.ce.cOYNe4Ngqo

 

Yesterday the San Jose-based start-up Wrightspeed announced a series hybrid powertrain retrofit kit for waste haulers that seriously curtail waste of fuel.

The company only makes series hybrid kits, and its new Route HD kit it says is (theoretically) cleaner than an all-electric vehicle in that its Capstone microturbine power generator boasts negligible emissions.

“Even if Wrightspeed’s Route HD powertrain is never plugged in,” says founder and CEO, Ian Wright, “it’s cleaner than an EV, because the exhaust emissions are lower per kilowatt-hour than the average mix of U.S. power stations.”

Obviously this is a qualified statement and compares actual emissions for the on-board turbine to an average per-vehicle emissions profile for EVs using grid power across America.

If a pure EV is powered by renewable energy such as solar, wind, or hydro, then the EV would be cleaner, and truly “zero emissions” not only from the tailpipe, but from the energy source used to charge its batteries.

The U.S. government does report in some areas coal power and other grid generating sources do bring down the net comparable emissions scores, and Wrightspeed says on average, its clean tech wins out compared to the present reality.

We’ve already reported on the Route HD intended for heavy duty trucks up to larger than a garbage hauler.

A garbage hauler that was an early demonstration vehicle, and the subject of this news, has a GVWR of around 54,000 pounds – but in case you missed that news previously posted, here are basic details …

668x355xRoute_diagram1.jpg.pagespeed.ic.h4Lz9ENIhb

Like the other two series hybrid retrofit kits Wrightspeed offers – the Route and Circuit – the Route HD can burn diesel, CNG, LNG or landfill gas.

The result is a system that is configured essentially like a battery electric vehicle (EV) that has its power station and grid charger onboard.

As mentioned, the microturbine’s emissions are very low. How low? As in 10-times lower than present California rules mandate, and this is without any catalytic converter or other emissions controls.

Yes, the straight exhaust from the on-board microturbine – essentially like a mini helicopter engine – is that clean, and the system is quiet enough that it does not even need a muffler.

This is therefore one high-tech truck, and it’s almost ironic that technology more advanced than many elite cars is being used for such pedestrian duties as picking up garbage.

The Route HD, says Wrightspeed, stands to save refuse companies more than $35,000 in fuel costs, and $10,000 in annual maintenance costs.

“The system is designed as a repower kit, so commercial fleets can retrofit their existing trucks,” says Wrightspeed in a statement. “This helps get dirty powertrains off the road, without necessitating the purchase of a brand-new asset.”

Critically missing info is the actual price of the company’s kits, but despite skeptical comments we’ve seen, we do not see cause to suspect the price –– while no doubt high –– will make this uncompetitive.

The company has garnered venture capital and state grant money, and to such investors, it must divulge the full extent of price for performance.

We did try to cajole the info yesterday from Wrightspeed’s marketing chief, Maya Giannini, but she resisted in part because keeping mum about this is to remain competitive, ironically enough.

Giannini said that if its products were being sold to individuals, rather than business-to-business, she would agree price data should be disclosed.

“It’s VERY rare for a B2B business to share their pricing, because the pricing can (and should) vary, deal to deal, depending on volumes, partnerships, etc.,” said Giannini. “We like it when individuals are interested in our products, but our customers are large fleets.”

And large fleets are being focused upon for a reason.

Unlike Tesla, Wrightspeed is primarily focusing on the market which wastes the most fuel and produces the worst pollution – medium and heavy duty trucks.

This is more than a noble intent however, and is more like win-win, as Wrightspeed sees the fleet truck market as one which will recognize the payback and help speed the company on its way to profitability.

But if trucks sound unexciting to car fans, no doubt Wrightspeed’s founder has the need for speed and fun on four wheels as well.

Ian Wright was one of the co-founders of Tesla back before the Roadster hit the road. An early innovator, his all-electric converted Ariel Atom called the “X1″ could zip to 60 in 2.9 seconds.

The company also has a 1,000-horsepower, all-wheel drive series hybrid powertrain it offers to automakers to build their own supercar around.

The company says it is actually working with one “real OEM” in Europe which is developing just such a car it plans to reveal when ready.

Meanwhile, its truck power trains are now available for medium and heavy duty applications. The company reports it has had strong response from early pilot projects with major companies, but here too it keeps relevant info close to its chest.

All in all, while not divulging all data for the armchair pundits of the Internet to judge, the company is moving forward, and we’ll look forward to seeing more news from it in time.

For more info, you can also consult Wrightspeed’s Web site.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, March 18th, 2014 at 5:55 am and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

COMMENTS: 28


  1. 1
    Codyozz

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    Mar 18th, 2014 (6:02 am)

    Re: cleaner than EV
    We all know that’s a load of garbage! BUT yes, by all means, disperse these in the coal burning states and plug em in in the high renewable states.


  2. 2
    nasaman

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    Mar 18th, 2014 (7:20 am)

    “Ian Wright* was one of the co-founders of Tesla back before the Roadster hit the road. An early innovator, his all-electric converted Ariel Atom called the “X1″ could zip to 60 in 2.9 seconds. The company also has a 1,000-horsepower, all-wheel drive series hybrid powertrain it offers to automakers to build their own supercar around. The company says it is actually working with one “real OEM” in Europe which is developing just such a car it plans to reveal when ready.”

    Now THATS a car I could get seriously excited about!!! —great topic & keep us posted, Jeff!

    *Video by Ian Wright on this EREV truck w/ an AER of ~80 mi: http://youtu.be/8rKsk6hEcNQ


  3. 3
    Nelson

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    Mar 18th, 2014 (7:53 am)

    The average weight of a fully loaded garbage truck is over 25 tons.
    The average weight of an 84 passenger bus is 11 to 12 tons.
    Is Wrightspeed also converting city buses?

    NPNS! SBF!
    Volt#671


  4. 4
    steve

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    Mar 18th, 2014 (8:37 am)

    None of this stuff is really in dispute.

    The elephant in the room is how much this power train costs. Seems like they’re still not saying.


  5. 5
    volt11

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    Mar 18th, 2014 (8:44 am)

    A microturbine range extender would be super cool!

    Cost, as mentioned, is a question mark. But for a Panamera class vehicle, it could be doable and add considerable cachet. Also, turbines can burn practically any liquid fuel, as long as the rest of the fuel system (hoses and such) can handle the chemistry.


  6. 6
    'georgeBower

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    Mar 18th, 2014 (8:47 am)

    As an old small gas turbine guy, I say go Wrightspeed.


  7. 7
    Eco_Turbo

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    Mar 18th, 2014 (8:51 am)

    volt11: A microturbine range extender would be super cool!

    They would also be something that could be handed down from car to car, given their longevity.


  8. 8
    Mark

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    Mar 18th, 2014 (8:57 am)

    A green garbage truck, Awesome teck! Sometimes ground breaking innovation comes in strange packages.


  9. 9
    ClarksonCote

     

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    Mar 18th, 2014 (9:20 am)

    What kind of battery size does this come with? That’s not clear, unless I missed it.


  10. 10
    Einar

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    Mar 18th, 2014 (9:48 am)

    If the price were anywhere near reasonable versus a standard gas or diesel drive train these would make great alternative drive trains for buses and RV’s – in fact, one of these would probably serve as an even more efficient power source for remote power applications than the VIA trucks with the on-site electrric power generation option. Can you imagine getting more mpg in your RV than your tow vehicle? LOL! The shape of things to come. Or, Hel, tow the Volt along (front wheel dolly?) and recharge it from the Wrightspeed power train.


  11. 11
    Mark Z

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    Mar 18th, 2014 (9:51 am)

    There is a news link at the Wrightspeed web page to Jeff’s first Wrightspeed article at HybridCars. It’s great when manufacturers link to appropriate news stories that help explain the technology.

    I hope that VIA Motors is considering this technology for future designs of their high horsepower vehicles.


  12. 12
    Jackson

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    Mar 18th, 2014 (10:06 am)

    … and imagine the quietness without the vrooming of a big diesel followed immediately by the moan of tortured brakes, over and over; first heard when the truck is still a couple of miles away. Just think: You might need a calendar to tell if it’s trash day!


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    K'dawg

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    Mar 18th, 2014 (10:11 am)

    I think micro-turbines would be well protected in slow moving dump trucks, but what happens in a fender bender in a regular car? How susceptible to damage are these? That is the most expensive part, so replacing it could be $$$. Maybe they need to talk to VIA Motors next, and they can get rid of the ICE.

    Pretty cool design by Wright, but they still have nothing on Mr. Fusion. It can actually run on the garbage :)

    mr-fusion.jpg


  14. 14
    `Noel Park

     

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    Mar 18th, 2014 (11:42 am)

    ‘georgeBower:
    As an old small gas turbine guy, I say go Wrightspeed.

    #6

    I’m always from Missouri, but amazing if true. You’re our resident GT expert, so do you believe the emissions claims? If it’s credible to you, I can only agree. +1

    As a long time resident of “The Diesel Death Zone”, I can only say that it can’t come a moment too soon.


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    Blind Guy

     

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    Mar 18th, 2014 (12:17 pm)

    I would love to see a comparison chart between say this turbine drivetrain and an all-electric like the BYD electric bus. I would think the turbine would win in the smaller size & weight categories but I’m not so sure about other aspects. If cost is practical; I would think 18 wheelers and maybe trains or mega-trucks might be good applications for this turbine range extender JMO.


  16. 16
    Jackson

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    Mar 18th, 2014 (1:22 pm)

    ‘georgeBower:
    As an old small gas turbine guy, I say go Wrightspeed.

    Are you the guy who occasionally tells us about the T5 specification for small turbines (as something yet to be achieved)? Someone here has regularly shot down the idea of a turbine range extender based on this (I don’t have Alzheimer’s, yet, but I do have sometimers ;-) ). Whether or not that’s you, can you comment on this? Is this something which becomes more important as you reduce the size (as for an automobile)?

    It seems likely to me that even a sub-T5 turbine could represent a huge improvement over a large diesel, and perhaps over the ICE of large-ish EREV SUV or pickup truck.


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    Mar 18th, 2014 (1:46 pm)

    Series drive, no muffler, presumably no cooling system … sounds like something mechanically simple enough even for Tesla if supercharging doesn’t work out: assuming enough size/cost reduction to increase the Model S price by only another 150 — 200%. Near-instant luxury EREV!

    Perhaps I shouldn’t say that too loud … then again, few of us would be able to afford it. ;-)


  18. 18
    AZM-Volt

     

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    Mar 18th, 2014 (1:47 pm)

    This is exciting news! Big companies look at cost long term, this could easily outsell volt numbers because consumers who buy cars do not look at cost to operate. I believe this to be the main reason why volts don’t sell like they should. It will be nice to see our three year old riding on a Wrightspeed schoolbus someday.


  19. 19
    Jackson

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    Mar 18th, 2014 (2:10 pm)

    Nelson: The average weight of a fully loaded garbage truck is over 25 tons.
    The average weight of an 84 passenger bus is 11 to 12 tons.
    Is Wrightspeed also converting city buses?

    I wonder if this system could also replace large diesels in construction equipment such as excavators, front end loaders and bulldozers? Right now, there seems little alternative for these kinds of applications.

    There are electromechanical systems which could potentially replace the hydraulics:
    http://www.duffnorton.com/products.aspx?id=7722


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    bobchr

     

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    Mar 18th, 2014 (3:24 pm)

    It’s my understanding that turbines do not have have a short start-up time from cold start. That being the case the details of turbine operation are sketchy. Does the turbine strictly recharge the Li-Ion power pack using the battery as a bucket storage system or does it operate like the 1.4L engine in the Volt but purely serially? If it acts in the previous manner then the turbine would not need to run continuously and could cycle as long as the battery was in a particular state of charge. If it operates like a Voltec system it would need to idle on stops and not shut off, I would think.


  21. 21
    Jon

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    Mar 18th, 2014 (3:45 pm)

    This concept has substantially lower emissions only because CO2 is not considered when talking about “emissions.” So yes, it is much cleaner when it comes to particulates, NOx, ect (which are important) but if climate change is your concern this may not be as great as it sounds. While large MW size gas turbines have extremely high thermal efficiency, micro-turbines do not. I have heard that the capstone turbine they are using is actually less efficient than an ICE. Overall it will still reduce fuel consumption just on the merit of being a hybrid but I wonder if this concept is actually superior to a diesel series or even parallel hybrid. The mechanical simplicity of a gas turbine series hybrid is very appealing but mechanical simplicity, however nice to think about, does not necessarily mean lower fuel consumption.


  22. 22
    `Noel Park

     

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    Mar 18th, 2014 (4:01 pm)

    Jackson: I wonder if this system could also replace large diesels in construction equipment such as excavators, front end loaders and bulldozers? Right now, there seems little alternative for these kinds of applications.

    #19

    I believe that Caterpillar is offering, or about to offer, a hybrid D7. I saw a link to it the other day, here I’m thinking.

    Not a plug in, but the journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step.

    Edit: Now that I look, they are also offering a hybrid excavator (what we used to call a tracked backhoe) and are working on hybrid locomotives as well.


  23. 23
    Streetlight

     

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    Mar 18th, 2014 (6:52 pm)

    Hi Wrightspeed Silicon Valley

    In the S.F. East Bay, we have hundreds maybe >1000 garbage trucks. Understand Waste Management on 98th Ave Oakland has 750 or so cranking up everyday. That’s a whole lot of fuel burned collecting.

    Wait a sec. Some of these GT’s make, for commercial locations, more than one trip/day. And they’re on the road on top of one of the busiest truck traffic areas in the US. You want garbage trucks you’re in the right place…


  24. 24
    Raymondjram

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    Mar 18th, 2014 (7:19 pm)

    Jackson: … and imagine the quietness without the vrooming of a big diesel followed immediately by the moan of tortured brakes, over and over; first heard when the truck is still a couple of miles away.Just think:You might need a calendar to tell if it’s trash day!

    I have a calendar marked for trash day. The trucks here are Diesel but the drivers makes little noise anyway.

    Raymond


  25. 25
    Raymondjram

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    Mar 18th, 2014 (7:28 pm)

    Jackson: I wonder if this system could also replace large diesels in construction equipment such as excavators, front end loaders and bulldozers?Right now, there seems little alternative for these kinds of applications.

    There are electromechanical systems which could potentially replace the hydraulics:
    http://www.duffnorton.com/products.aspx?id=7722

    Most large vehicles are serial hybrids. Take, for example, the giant Crawler Transporters that NASA built in 1965, and are being refitted for the new Space Launch Systems at the Kennedy Space Center after 46 years of service (they carried the first Saturn V in 1967):

    “Due to its age and the need to support the heavier Space Launch System and its launch tower, in mid-2012 one of the crawlers was undergoing an upgrade involving new engines, new exhausts, new brakes, new hydraulics, new computers, to increase its lifting capacity from 5,400,000 to 8,200,000 kg (12,000,000 to 18,000,000 lb).”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crawler-transporter
    http://www.wnyc.org/story/284187-nasas-big-rig-and-we-mean-really-big-gets-a-tune-up-pics/

    So any large mobile system is more efficient with a serial hybrid powertrain. NASA used Diesel engines in the Crawler Transporters, but other large vehicles use gas turbines to generate electrical power.

    BTW, these are the most powerful hybrids in the world, and American made!!

    Raymond

    Edit: These two giants have the worst MPG of any American vehicle: only 32 feet to one gallon of fuel (0.006 MPG)!


  26. 26
    bobc

     

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    Mar 18th, 2014 (8:02 pm)

    `Noel Park,

    Most modern locomotives are already hybrids. The diesels in these machines just generate electricity that powers a 2 speed electric rail carriage
    .


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    `Noel Park

     

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    Mar 18th, 2014 (8:23 pm)

    bobc:
    `Noel Park,

    Most modern locomotives are already hybrids. The diesels in these machines just generate electricity that powers a 2 speed electric rail carriage
    .

    #26

    Yeah but these have big batteries which store power from regenerative braking which the traditional diesel electrics do not have. That’s why the fuel consumption is a lot better. They are projecting a fuel saving of $1 MILLION + over the life of the locomotive.

    Interestingly, the hybrid excavators do not use a battery, but use a hydraulic accumulator to store energy from the swing brakes. The D7 dozer does use a battery hybrid system.


  28. 28
    Sean

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    Mar 19th, 2014 (1:05 am)

    No offense not really a fan of trucks but I will say this if the technology becomes even better I hope one day in the future will have pure EV trucks that’s what I want to see one day in the future but on the positive no more black smog yippee!

    The Future Is Electric Not Hydrogen!