• Dec 4, 2009
Capstone Turbine CMT-380 - click above for high-res image gallery

The CMT-380 was the surprise basement find of the LA Auto Show. After working on the car for four years, inventor Richard Hilleman was the man of the hour as he fielded questions about his unusual microturbine-lithium-ion hybrid powertrain fitted to a GTM Supercar kit body.

Hilleman has owned an electric vehicle – a converted Porsche 550 Spyder – for at 15 years and has constantly upgraded it. The EV used to have just 30 hp with lead acids but now uses lithium ferrous batteries and has 200 hp. The 100-mile range hasn't changed, though, and so he knew it was time to build a hybrid. He decided on Capstone's diesel microturbines as the range extender. He knew he could rely on them – they've been used in buses for years – but there was still the challenge of fitting the unit into a car like this. Hilleman built the CMT-380 just for himself, but Capstone is happy to show it off as a proof of concept vehicle. It would be too pricey to put into mass production (Hilleman estimated he put in about $375,000 hours of work), but it's not impossible that a high-end, expensive, limited production run could be made some day.

Right now, Hilleman is really happy with his creation. He especially loves the sound of the vehicle. Three feet to the side of the car, the microturbine puts out about 87 dB, but in the cabin, it's nearly silent. California law might require him to add a muffler, but it's already quiet enough without one. He's got a solution for that problem, should he need it.

Hilleman hasn't had a lot of time to actually drive the car – he just finished it last week – but he now has a EV hybrid that he can drive from the Bay Area to Las Vegas, just like he wanted. Check out the car in all its matte glory in the gallery below and listen to Hilleman talk about the journey to create the CMT-380 after the jump.

Live photos copyright ©2009 Sebastian Blanco / Weblogs, Inc.

Richard Hilleman (8 min, download 4 MB):

Our travel and lodging for this media event were paid for by the Auto Alliance.

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