The Wrightspeed Route 1000 powertrain is the brainchild of Ian Wright, one of the co-founders of Tesla Motors. While Wright believes in electrification, he is of the opinion that efficiency efforts would actually have the biggest impact if applied to the biggest consumers of energy such as medium and heavy duty trucks and buses. These vehicles are typically powered by big diesel engines that make a lot of noise and pollution while getting anywhere from 3 to 6 mpg and accumulating as much as 100,000 miles per year.
Wright’s approach is to size the batteries for about 30 miles of electric driving and then use a range extender to keep the truck going for the rest of the route. Unlike something like the Chevrolet Volt which uses a conventional gasoline four-cylinder engine, Wright found the most efficient type of range-extender available, a small gas turbine. This is paired with a motor/gearbox unit mounted at the drive axles to provide propulsion and regenerative braking from all the stops these vehicles typically do.
Wrightspeed has been testing its system for several years now with a variety of companies including FedEx and plans to enter regular production by early autumn of 2016. Earlier this year, Wrightspeed announced a deal to supply powertrains to NZ Bus in New Zealand.
“Until now we’ve focused on re-power kits that would enable customers to do cost-effective updates to existing vehicles without having to purchase all new,” said CEO Ian Wright. “This program with Mack is our first installation with an OEM.”