Friday, December 03, 2010

Jaguar-Blandon jet-engine looks interesting for motorcycles!

Jaguar C-X75 Sir William Lyons
Sir William Lyons (top, right), the man who set up Jaguar in the 1930s, was also a motorcycle enthusiast. Could the new, lightweight micro jet engines (top, left) used on the new Jaguar C-X75 concept car (below) find their way on to motorcycles, sometime in the near future...?
Jaguar C-X75 Jaguar C-X75 Jaguar C-X75

Sir William Lyons, the man who set up Jaguar in the 1930s, was also a motorcycle enthusiast. In fact, much before he set up Jaguar and started making cars, he set up the Swallow Sidecar Company in the early-1920s, with the help of fellow motorcycle enthusiast William Walmsley. More than three-quarters of a century later, Jaguar have unveiled a jet-electric supercar concept, the C-X75, whose powerplant looks very interesting not just in the context of cars but also, possibly, motorcycles.

According to Jaguar, the C-X75, which was recently unveiled to celebrate ‘75 years of beautiful, fast Jaguars,’ can accelerate from zero to 100km/h in 3.4 seconds and is capable of hitting a top speed of 330km/h. With all of four electric motors – one at each wheel – powering the 4WD car, the C-X75 packs a massive 780 horsepower and 1,600Nm of torque. And that’s not all – the Jag is also fitted with two micro gas-turbines (yes, that’s two very small jet engines!), that are there to charge the lithium-ion batteries that feed the electric motors. Spinning at a heady 80,000rpm, the two tiny jet engines generate enough electricity to extend the car’s range to 900km.

What we find really interesting about the C-X75, in the context of motorcycles, are its tiny gas-turbines, each of which is no bigger than your average thermos flask. Jaguar developed these in partnership with Bladon Jets, and each mini jet engine weighs 35kg and produces 94 horsepower at a constant 80,000rpm. Now, we think that’s pretty exciting stuff. Can you imagine a GSX-R, CBR-RR or ZX-RR fitted with two (or three, or four...!) of these near-100bhp jet engines? The performance should be quite mind-boggling.

The UK-based Bladon Jets, who’ve developed these mini jet engines for Jaguar, say that this is the first time anyone has ever produced multi-stage axial flow compressors (the technology used on all large gas-turbines) on a miniaturized scale and to very high tolerances. ‘This has increased the compression and efficiency of micro gas-turbines to the point at which they can be viewed as a realistic power source,’ say Blandon.

Jet engines can run on a range of fuels including petrol, diesel, compressed natural gas (CNG), liquid petroleum gas (LPG) and various biofuels. They also offer some advantages over the reciprocating piston engine in terms of having fewer moving parts and not needing oil lubrication or water-cooling systems, which also leads to weight-saving benefits. Also, turbines reach their optimum operating speed and temperature in seconds and can operate at a constant RPM, at which they deliver their optimum output.

We’re not saying we’ll all be riding jet-engined GSX-Rs and R1s next year. But the micro jet engines developed by Blandon are definitely intriguing in the sportsbikes context. We certainly hope some manufacturer, or at least some small volumes specials builder, will look into this and see if it’s possible to build a mass-market jet-engined superbike sometime soon!
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