The Impact of a Microturbine Power Plant on an Off Road Range Extended Electric Vehicle

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Virginia Tech

The purpose of this thesis is to examine the feasibility of using a microturbine to power an off-road Series Hybrid Autonomous Vehicle (SHEV), and evaluate the benefits and drawbacks inherent in using a microturbine rather than an Internal Combustion Engine (ICE). The specific power plant requirements for a low speed hybrid vehicle that must operate extensively as an Electric Vehicle (EV) and run on JP-8 (a diesel equivalent) are unusual; few options can adequately address all of these needs. Most development of Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs) has focused on gasoline ICE power plants, but Diesel ICEs are heavier, which has an adverse effect on EV range.

While mechanically-linked turbine vehicles failed to have the same performance abilities of their ICE counterparts, a microturbine generator-powered SHEV can take advantage of its battery pack to avoid the issues inherent in its mechanical predecessors. A microturbine generator is mechanically decoupled from the powertrain, allowing for an incredibly power dense power plant that lightens the weight of the vehicle. This weight reduction directly correlates to an increased EV operational range, enhancing mobility, stealth, and the tactical effectiveness of the squad that the vehicle is intended to support.

To determine the full impact that a microturbine might have on this specific SHEV, modeling of the vehicle was conducted to directly compare a microturbine and an ICE power plant using two drive cycles that were designed to simulate the typical operation specific to the vehicle. Drive cycle analysis revealed that the improved EV performance and design flexibility offered by the microturbine's weight justifies the selection of a microturbine over an ICE for this specific case. This decision is dependent upon several factors: a microturbine with fuel efficiency comparable to an ICE, the selection of a large battery pack, and an emphasis on EV operations.

Microturbine, HEV, Autonomy