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General Motors introduces futuristic gas turbine heavy truck concept


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GM Press Release / April 8, 1964

A turbine-powered freight hauler which could carry containerized cargoes at new peaks of efficiency on tomorrow’s express highways is being shown by General Motors at the New York World’s Fair.

Named the Bison, it shows a sleek new design for heavy cargo vehicles combining power, speed and utility with outstanding appearance.

The Bison anticipates the day when much of our freight may be moved in standardized containers which can be automatically loaded, unloaded, sorted and stored by electronically-controlled equipment.

The Bison was designed and built by General Motors Styling under the direction of GM Vice President William L. Mitchell.

The cab, “power pod” and trailer total 50 feet in length.

Gas Turbine Power

The vehicle would have a twin-turbine powerplant providing 1,000 horsepower from two gas turbines of 280 and 720 horsepower, based on the GT309 gas turbine developed by General Motors Research Laboratories.

The two gas turbines are enclosed in a pod mounted behind the cab over the “fifth wheel” (trailer attachment point) and the four driving wheels. This location improves aerodynamic flow by filling the gap between the tractor and trailer roofs, and provides cleaner air for the gas turbine engines. The engines can be lifted off individually for service or replacement.

The 280 horsepower gas turbine, a regenerative type, would provide power for normal highway cruising conditions.

The non-regenerative 720 horsepower gas turbine would add its power when needed for acceleration or climbing grades, or for pulling two or more trailers. Power could be distributed to all axles on both tractor and trailer units by a turbine electric system.

General Motors’ experience with vehicular gas turbine design dates back almost two decades Today’s GT309 represents the latest development in a series of heavy duty vehicular, dual shaft, regenerative gas turbine engines. The GT309 features a single-stage centrifugal compressor, rotating regenerator, single can-type direct-spray burner and two axial turbines. To improve partial load fuel economy and provide engine braking, “Power Transfer” technology is employed, which connects the gasifier and power turbine shafts through a controlled torque coupling.

A patented development of the GM Research Laboratories and Allison Division. “Power Transfer” transmits a scheduled amount of power from the gasifier turbine to the output shaft, thus stabilizing the turbine inlet temperature over much of the engine operating range. A direct result is improved fuel economy at partial throttle, where the engine operates most of the time.

When the vehicle decelerates, power transfer couples the driving wheels to the compressor, providing engine braking power two to three times greater than that of a conventional diesel-powered truck. For example, the power transfer system of the 280 horsepower GT-309 gas-turbine engine provided over 1000 lb. ft. of torque at stalled output rpm. Power transfer allowed trucks to make faster and safer descents, controlling downhill speeds while extending service brake and wheel-end life.

Another function of Power transfer was to prevent turbine overspeed if the load suddenly is disconnected from the engine.

Futuristic Cab Design

The Bison’s cab provides comfortable seating for two, ahead of the engines and wheels. Windshield and side windows are combined in a single panoramic window giving uninterrupted vision to the operator. Easy entrance and exit is provided by a forward-tilting canopy, and a step which folds down when as the canopy opens.

The Bison is steered with two coupled hand grips on a console extending over the driver’s lap. To turn the vehicle, the grips are tilted from side to side.

Also located on the driver’s console are the steering option selector lever, speedometer and a maintenance monitor indicator lamp which illuminates green while all systems are okay, amber when something requires attention at the next service opportunity, and red when a malfunction renders the Bison inoperable.

Revolutionary Steering Technology

Unique engineering features of the Bison include a trailer locking device, and a four-option steering arrangement. This provides the stability and safety advantage of a straight (rigid) truck on the highway, while also making possible exceptional maneuverability in urban traffic and freight terminals. With an adaptor, the Bison could also handle present day semi-trailers.

The four steering options are:

  • Single front axle steering, for operation as a semi-trailer rig on city streets.
  • Tandem front axle steering (twin-steer), with all four front wheels turning parallel and the fifth wheel locked to make the Bison a rigid chassis truck for the highway.
  • Opposed steering, with front and rear wheels turning in opposite directions for close turns at low speeds.
  • Single rear axle steering, for trailer spotting.

A combination jack and sander is housed in a cylinder between the driving wheels. It is actuated by the air-oil suspension system and can be controlled as a jack from either inside or outside the cab. The sander distributes sand to both wheels to provide traction in both forward and reverse directions.

The Future of LTL – Standardized Containerization

The Bison’s trailer is designed around a standardized container system using rigid weatherproof containers if eight by eight-foot cross sections in 10, 20, 30 and 40 foot lengths. This system has recently been approved by the American Standards Association, and is already in use.

Containers could be removed individually, and new ones added, as the Bison calls at various freight terminals on its programmed route. At the terminals, the containers could be transferred by automatic equipment to smaller local delivery trucks or other modes of transport, or stored in open, pigeon hole-type buildings.

The entire terminal operation could be automatic, with loading and unloading of vehicles, and sorting and movement of containers, all controlled by electronic equipment.

The GM Futurama Exhibit – 1964/65 World’s Fair at Flush Meadows Park, New York

The Bison, painted a bright orange color, is on display in the lower product plaza of the General Motors Futurama exhibit.

The GT309 gas turbine engine is being exhibited at the Futurama by General Motors Research Laboratories.

Applications of the vehicle’s containerization principles are demonstrated in scale models in the Futurama ride’s “City of Tomorrow” exhibit, and in a Metro-Mobility exhibit in the lower product plaza.

Related reading –

(GT309 gas turbine) http://www.bigmacktrucks.com/index.php?/topic/31898-the-gas-turbine-chevrolet-turbo-titan-iii/

http://www.bigmacktrucks.com/index.php?/topic/31891-the-gas-turbine-general-motors-bison-iii/

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New GM Gas Turbine for Heavies

Commercial Motor / April 10, 1964

A new 280 horsepower regenerative gas turbine designed specifically for heavy-duty commercial vehicles has been developed by General Motors Research Laboratories and will be exhibited at the New York World's Fair, which opens on April 22 and closes on October 18.

The new engine is known as the GT-309, and is a fifth-generation design with more than 15 years of research and development behind it.

It will be recalled that one of the first G.M. gas turbines for vehicle use was' installed in the Turbocruiser bus in 1954.

The new engine has the same basic components as previous turbines—compressor, gasifier turbine, power turbine and regenerator—but a new system termed Power Transfer is incorporated whereby a variable coupling or clutch transfers a predetermined amount of power from the engine's gasifier turbine to the output shaft, This maintains a virtually constant turbine-inlet temperature over most of the engine's operating range, it is claimed.

When the vehicle is decelerating, the Power Transfer couples the transmission line to the turbine compressor and provides two to three times the braking power of a comparable petrol or diesel engine.

According to Dr. Lawrence R. Hafstad. vice-president in charge of the General Motors Research Laboratories, the Power Transfer improves the new turbine's part-load fuel economy, and also gives better acceleration, limits the power-turbine speed and makes the use of manual or automatic transmissions possible.

The GT-309 develops its rated 280 horsepower at an output shaft speed of 3,600 r.p.m., this being stepped down from a power-turbine-shaft speed of 30,480 r.p.m. It has a falling torque curve, with maximum torque near the stall speed, and it is claimed to occupy one-third less space and to weigh less than half the weight of a diesel engine of equivalent performance.

The gas temperature at the gasifier-turbine inlet is 927°C. (1,700°F.), and the single regenerator results in exhaust temperatures in the 150°-260°C. (300"-500°F.) range, and salvages more than 90 per cent of the recoverable exhaust-system heat.

Several GT-309 gas turbines are being evaluated under a variety of operating conditions in vehicles and on G.M. test beds.

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