Jay Leno’s Ecojet is a project that’s been two and a half years in the making with the help of his garage mechanics and industry friends. The goal was to build a high performance car powered by a turbine burning soy bean oil based biodiesel. Like engines, turbines turn thermal energy into rotational mechanical energy. Instead of compressing air and fuel for detonation, the expansion of heated air turns a fan-shaped turbine on a rotating shaft. The most common automotive application is a turbocharger that harnesses the thermal energy of exhaust gasses. It’s work is then used to compress fresh air to force into the engine’s cylinders. Turbines are only used for direct mechanical drive in heavy duty applications like tanks, trains, ships and helicopters. They’re a lot more efficient when they can stay spun up at high rpm’s. Piston-cylinder engines are generally more efficient for the stop and go duty cycles seen in cars, but that’s not to say that turbines were never used in cars. Check out this vintage promotional video for Chrysler’s turbine car program from the early 60’s. Jay Leno owns one of the 50 cars that were made available to the public.
Leno’s fascination with turbines didn’t end there. He’s also one of the famous owners of the Marine Turbine Technologies Y2K Turbine Superbike. The 500 lbs. motorcycle has an aluminum frame and uses a Rolls Royce helicopter turbine that produces 320 horsepower at 52,000 rpms and 425 ft-lbs of torque at 2,000 rpm.
Turbines have recently gained a lot of interest because they’re able to use just about anything flammable as fuel. Really all they need to work is hot air. The Ecojet demonstrates that you can get supercar power from biodiesel. Honeywell supplied the 750 horsepower helicopter turbine that motivates the Ecojet. Leno’s mechanics fabricated a transfer case to reduce the turbine’s 75,000 rpm operation speed to a more manageable 6,000 rpm output that runs into a beefed up 4 speed automatic transmission from a C4 Corvette. In order to compliment the supercar power with supercar handling, Leno turned to Alcoa aluminum for the C6 Corvette inspired chassis and running gear. Check out the capstone video for the whole project to see all the challenges and details of bringing the Ecojet to life:
Jay Leno has always been a visionary when it comes to alternative energy cars. He understands that we have to develop environmentally responsible technologies in order to continue enjoying a passion for automobiles. He also seems to believe that the cars of the future can have green performance without compromises just like we do here at Flux Auto.