Chrysler is arguably in the toughest shape of the Big Three Detroit automakers, both financially and with its future lineup. You can point plenty of fingers at reasons why, including the lack of effective, fuel efficient vehicles, but Chrysler was once considered the most innovative of the big three, always thinking big while breaking the bank.
One little-known car from the annals of the Auburn Hills automaker is the Patriot, a purpose built hybrid electric race car that was to use turbines and natural gas to achieve purported speeds of 200 mph.
The Patriot was conceived to compete in the World Sports Car class of FIA, intended for concept race vehicles. Its drivetrain consisted of a two alternator turbine engine and a 525 volt AC induction motor. The turbine was fed by natural gas and could spin as high as 100,000 RPM. The whole engine assembly weighed just over 300 pounds, with a lightweight English-built Reynard chassis. The Patriot even featured state-of-the-art engine management systems, and could have conceivably led an early charge into an alternative fuel future.
Unfortunately its undoing was the massive flywheel required of the turbine. Since there were no batteries available that were light or effective enough to store energy, they instead went with a huge carbon fiber flywheel to store the energy. Tipping the scales at 1147 pounds, the flywheel held the kinetic energy of a truck going 100 mph. There was no way to protect the driver from the flywheel in case of failure, and at least one Chrysler employee was killed by it. The car never ran under its own power, and these press shots were taken with the aid of a tow truck. Ultimately the Patriot was scrapped, as funding and interest dried up. Why bother developing an alternative fuel car when gas was so cheap and very few had the environmental concerns we have today?
Chrysler was ahead of the game, but as a result, ironically missed the boat by a few years. A toned-down alternative fuel vehicle based on this technology might have helped save the company the embarrassment of bankruptcy. But, then again, probably not. Still, it is interesting to see all the good ideas thrown into the trash over the years.
Source: Allpar | Photos: Chrysler