UK-China partnership to develop gas turbine range extender engine

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Scientists at the UK’s University of Birmingham will work with partners in China to develop a gas turbine range extender engine to boost the range of electric vehicles.

The university has received a £554,000 (US$723,400) grant from Innovate UK for the project, which aims to alleviate EV range anxiety with the turbo range extender.

The new engine uses air bearings to reduce friction and wear, while improving efficiency. When compared to an ICE engine, the team estimates that a gas range extender can reduce emission of nitrous oxides by 85%.

Though designed as a range extender for EV applications, the technology could also be used as a power source for unmanned air vehicles, boats, buses and trucks.

“This is a radically different proposition to current piston engines,” explained Prof. Kyle Jiang, director of the Research Centre for High-Performance Turbomachinery at the university. “Ours has much higher thermal efficiency and much lower emissions.

“Current range extending engines are all piston-drive, but gas turbine range extenders are superior technology. We believe that this innovation will give a competitive edge to the British automotive industry and have a major impact on the European light vehicle market, which is worth around half a trillion euros.”

Birmingham High Performance Turbomachinery, a UK-based company, has been established to design and construct the engine. Chinese company Wuxi Yuanchang, based in Jiangsu, will develop a high-speed electric generator to be installed on the engine.

“Electric vehicles feature zero emission and excellent driveability, but traveling range per charge has reduced their public appeal,” added Jiang. “Adding batteries is one solution to extend range, but this increases a vehicle’s weight and cost considerably.

“Some companies use a small piston engine with an electric generator, but emissions and thermal efficiency are worse than those of bigger piston engines measured in per-unit power output.”

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Rachel's career in journalism began around five years ago when she started working for UKi Media & Events, having recently graduated from Coventry University where she studied the subject. Her favourite aspect of the job is interviewing industry experts, including researchers, scientists, engineers and technicians, and learning more about the groundbreaking technologies and innovations that are shaping the future of the automotive and tire industries.

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