The Audi R10 and Peugeot 908 have garnered an enormous amount of attention for their diesel powered efforts at Le Mans in the last two years but they are by no means the first attempts at alternative power-trains for race cars. One of the more interesting if ultimately unsuccessful ideas came in the form of the Chrysler Patriot. Chrysler announced the Patriot in 1993 and development begun in earnest later that year and into 1994. The Patriot chassis was designed and built by now defunct race car manufacturer Reynard to the rules of the World Sports Car class and was intended to run at Le Mans beginning in 1995.
Find out what made the Patriot drive-train unique after the jump.
Although the car itself looked pretty conventional for the time and wasn't radically different from other early nineties WSC cars, the intended power-train was unique. Chrysler has a history of trying to get turbines working in cars going back to at least the early sixties. The Patriot was intended to have a natural gas-fueled two-stage turbine driving a pair of alternators providing juice to a 525V AC induction motor making this essentially a series hybrid.
The turbines could provide decent power from compact package but didn't really have the transient response needed for this type of application. Unlike the current series hybrids from Ford and General Motors, the Patriot was not designed to use a battery for storing energy since no practical type was available for a racing application at that time.
Instead, Chrysler wanted to use a flywheel to store energy that would be available for bursts of power for acceleration when needed. The flywheel system was designed to spin at 58,000 rpm in a vacuum housing made of carbon fiber. Unfortunately, dynamometer testing of the system proved it to be unworkable for an automotive application. After two catastrophic failures of the flywheel they decided they could adequately shield the driver and canceled the project. The Patriot never ran with the full drive-train system and now sits in the basement of the Walter Chrysler museum in Auburn Hills, Michigan.