Jaguar Land Rover, Bladon Jets and SR Drives are in a joint venture consortium to develop a new ‘micro jet turbine’ for use in range extender hybrid drives. By now all of you should know what a range extender series hybrid system is, since once was featured in the Proton EMAS Concept.

The aim here is to replace the piston combustion engine in the range extender with a very compact jet turbine that is capable of burning a wide range of fuels. The turbine would be hooked up to a high-speed switched-reluctance generator to produce electricity to either recharge the batteries or power the electric motor that drives the series hybrid. The consortium has been awarded a juicy £1.1 million grant by the UK government’s Technology Strategy Board for the research and development. The total project cost is £2.2 million.

According to the consortium, replacing a petrol-powered piston engine with an axial flow micro jet turbine can save up to 15% of overall vehicle weight. Some of the weight savings will be from the engine’s supporting parts such as the lack of needing water cooling, oil or catalytic converters. You can also reduce emissions by burning cleaner fuels other then regular petrol.

But more importantly, Bladon Jets says the actual physical size taken up by the micro turbine is much much smaller, and could potentially only take up 5% size, weight and parts count of a typical piston engine. A prototype christened the BJ-300-P measures only 4 inch in diameter and 12 inches in length. Also, with a turbine there is only one moving part.

Production versions of the ‘Ultra Lightweight Range Extender’ as it is called could take between 5 to 15 years though – hopefully by then it will still be relevant to the motorist, as it definitely sounds like a cool idea.