Do you remember the Chrysler Patriot?

Chrysler launched this photograph 25 years in the past exhibiting its flywheel-powered Patriot ‘driving’ round a British racing circuit. A yr later, the ‘driver’ revealed that the automotive wasn’t working below its personal energy, however had been pulled in control by a tow rope | Chrysler photograph

(Editor’s notice: Though the race has been postponed till this fall due to the coronavirus pandemic, this weekend was the unique race date for the 2020 working of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and thus makes the 25th anniversary of Chrysler’s Patriot desires.)

Bear in mind the Chrysler Patriot? 

We do, and it was both one of many biggest publicity stunts in automotive historical past or an costly however failed experiment within the software of space-age expertise to the paved portion of this planet.

The Wall Road Journal recommended the undertaking had the potential to “push (the) seek for electrical automobiles in a special route.”

In its cowl story, AutoWeek journal recommended the automotive’s success may lastly reply the automotive age-old query: What justifies all of the time and cash, to not point out the danger of life and limb invested in motorsports? Is it advertising and marketing or is it expertise?

The Chrysler Patriot on the observe, however not below its personal energy | Chrysler photograph

You could not keep in mind the Chrysler Patriot, the automotive that was going to revolutionize not solely auto racing however automotive energy interval, however I do. I wrote that AutoWeek cowl story.

Trying again, it appears we had our doubts. “Showdown or Sideshow?” was the headline on the duvet of that January 31, 1994, difficulty. 

The Patriot had been unveiled earlier that month on the North American Worldwide Auto Present in downtown Detroit. The said aim was to enter the automotive — and its revolutionary, really space-age powertrain — on the Daytona, Sebring and Le Mans endurance races in 1995. 

On the time, and once more a number of months later at an in-depth Patriot expertise replace press session at Chrysler’s secretive Liberty analysis and improvement “skunkworks” facility north of Detroit, we have been informed Patriot already had executed “shakedown laps” across the Donington Park race observe in England. There have been even images and video of that take a look at session.

The AutoWeek cowl

Downside was, as I might study, although not till a yr later after I chatted at a sports activities automotive race with Andy Wallace, the “driver” proven occupying the automotive for these shakedown laps, what we weren’t proven was Wallace greedy a tow rope as he and the Patriot have been being pulled across the observe behind a truck. As soon as in control, and on downhill sections of the observe, Wallace was signaled to launch the rope and to steer the automotive as if it was working below its personal energy as a substitute of — in actuality — the facility of inertia and gravity.

Because it turned out, the ultra-high-speed flywheel expertise that supplied energy for satellites working within the gravity-free setting outdoors the earth’s ambiance (and for submarines within the depths of the oceans) apparently couldn’t be made to operate as properly in a ground-bound race automotive. 

I’m going by reminiscence slightly than notes right here, however my recollection is that throughout the lunch break, Francois Castaing did this drawing on a placemat as he mentioned how the ‘flywheel’ hybrid system would work within the race automotive | Larry Edsall archives

In fact, that’s not what we have been informed on the auto present, nor on the press briefing six months later. On the briefing, a parade of engineers from Chrysler and its associates, which included the likes of Westinghouse Electrical, Satcon and Cryogenics Consultants Inc., talked in regards to the numerous elements of the revolutionary automotive powertrain that was being developed. 

It additionally was revealed that the automotive itself had spent almost 170 hours in wind-tunnel testing and was being revised right into a Mark II chassis that may be used for precise powertrain testing.

It might be one other six months, and after some apparently precise powertrain improvement, earlier than Chrysler admitted to points with the flywheel, the traction motor, the facility controller, the gas system and with different elements of the Patriot’s proposed hybrid powertrain. 

Chrysler did reveal no less than a type of points, that the pure gas-fueled turbine concerned within the powertrain was spinning so quick that it generated a lot warmth that its blades have been melting.

The Patriot powertrain was to hyperlink a 24,000-rpm traction motor/controller and a 100,000-rpm two-turbo/alternator to a 58,000-rpm flywheel housed in a carbon-fiber housing rated to comprise forces as much as 920,000 ppi. The flywheel would act as a mechanical battery, storing energy till it was wanted to supply “sudden” acceleration.

Such a system, Chrysler stated, not solely had environmental advantages, however had potential to affect automotive expertise within the subsequent century and the U.S. authorities’s want for a “automotive of the long run” program. Chrysler additionally stated it needed to return to main worldwide racing and had thought of Indianapolis and System 1 in addition to sports activities automotive racing. Racing, it added, gives a laboratory for creating and evaluating expertise whereas inspiring engineers to try for methods to win.

“Again 40 years in the past, motor racing helped invent things like disc brakes and gas injection, in addition to different applied sciences which helped security and emissions,” Chrysler vp Francois Castaing had stated on the Detroit auto present in 1994. 

“Nicely, we at Chrysler consider that racing must be introduced again to this authentic function.”

He additionally stated that automakers divided their engineers into teams. For instance, “the ‘inexperienced’ guys” and people who “do efficiency.”

“However who says we will’t mixed them?” he stated. “And the place is it written {that a} automobile that’s ‘inexperienced’ can’t even be ‘red-hot’ with pleasure?

“If we’re profitable,” he added, pointing to the Patriot plan for a automotive burning pure gasoline in a hybrid system producing greater than 500 horsepower and speeds within the vary of 200 mph, “we’ll show that environment friendly and clear automobiles of the long run don’t should be boring to drive.”

He was proper, although the expertise wasn’t confirmed by Chrysler’s Patriot however by System One racing groups utilizing flywheel-battery setups as a part of their vitality restoration programs.

And, because it turned out, Chrysler did race at Le Mans in 1995, simply not with the Patriot. As a substitute, it was with Dodge GTS-R Vipers, one of the best of the bunch ending 10th general, although 34 laps behind the profitable Porsche prototype, and solely eighth within the GT1 class.

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