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The Student News Organization for Rutherford B. Hayes High School

The Talisman

The Student News Organization for Rutherford B. Hayes High School

The Talisman

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Computer science should be accessible for all and integrated with both the humanities and social sciences.
Opinion: Computer science education needs a major update
Grace Metz, Editor-In-Chief • May 19, 2024
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The Senior Music Award Ceremony took place on May 7, 2024.
Music department honors graduating seniors
Ava Vogel, Staff Writer • May 18, 2024
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Coach Vincenzo talks with player Landon Vanderwarker during a game.
How Coach Vincenzo’s character shaped not only the Hayes Basketball program, but the community and players alike
Josie Morrow, Views/Entertainment Section Editor • May 17, 2024
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Engineers work on the Voyager 2 probe. The Voyager probes have now been in space for nearly 50 years.
Opinion: What the Voyagers odysseys mean
Brody Counts, Staff Writer • May 17, 2024
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Next years Hayes Talisman editorial board (Left-Right): Natalie Heckert, Abby Stahl, Izzy Kelly, Dre Nelson, Mia Saksa and Ava Vogel.
Meet our new 2024-2025 editorial board
Grace Metz, Editor-In-Chief • May 15, 2024
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The genius of Chrysler: Why it failed, and why it could’ve worked

Rochkind/Wikimedia Commons
A Chrysler Turbine sits on display next to a faux car model during the 1964 World Fair. The Turbine was the most famous product of Chrysler’s turbine program.

On May 14, 1963, a radical new car hit the roadways of the United States. It didn’t have a rumbling engine, nor did it have to exclusively run on one fuel type, and best of all, drivers never needed to change its oil. It was Chrysler’s newest experiment into gas-turbine propulsion, aptly named the Chrysler Turbine.
It wasn’t the first of its kind. From 1953 to 1962, a total of 16 vehicles were uniquely modified with experimental gas turbine engines, but none had the same impact on the public and potential influence on tomorrow.

Enter the Ghia Turbine

In February of 1962, Chrysler realized they had something big on their hands. During the cross-country tours of late 1961 to early 1962, they displayed two turbine vehicles (later expanded to four to meet demand). Polling after the tours revealed that 30% who had seen it said that if they could, they’d immediately buy one, while another 54% said they’d give it a hard think. On May 14, 1963, the world was introduced to the Chrysler Corporation Turbine Car. Rather than a coupe with aesthetics being the sole mission, the Turbine was designed with the average American family in mind, its body work, designed by the Italian firm Carrozzeria Ghia. Its root-beer-like coloring was known as turbine bronze, and its trunk was designed to invoke images of fighter jets.
Under the hood and behind the pareidolia-inducing front end, Chrysler’s newest breakthrough in their turbine department sat at the ready. The A-831 was the most compact, and most powerful turbine they had built yet. At 3600 RPM, a RPM achieved via a series of reduction gears, the engine produced 130 horsepower, and at full tilt the car could do 0-60 in 9 seconds.
One strange thing that came with the engine was its very high idling speed, about 22,000 RPM, and it was calibrated to read up to about 60,000 RPM. Another interesting quirk, shown via the dashboard, was the inclusion of a temperature gauge that would run all the way up to 2,000 degrees fahrenheit. Most cars fitted with a traditional piston engine shouldn’t ever exceed even 200 degrees, but to even start the Turbine, the engine had to reach 1,200 degrees.

The Car for America

The February 1962 study was one of the main driving forces behind the 63’ Turbine, but so far the only people who had driven it were mostly test drivers on behalf of Chrysler, and that defeated the point of the car. So, on October 29, 1963 the first Turbine was delivered to Richard Viaha, a systems engineer living in Chicago. 50 cars in total were produced, being tested by 203 users in three-month periods, with the last driver turning in her vehicle on January 28, 1966.
Evidence of its popularity and the effect of the User Evaluation Program was clear when during the 1964 World Fair over 350,000 people took a ride in the vehicle, with Chrysler’s booth reporting a total of over 18,500,000 visitors all seeking to look at the car of tomorrow. The low to sea level location also improved its exhaust temperature, reducing it a further 60 degrees to a mere 120 at idle. For six months, 13 hours a day, the vehicle operated without fail, though receiving a few bumps and dings along the way.
Beyond its space age design and fancy turbine engine, its ability to use nearly any hydrocarbon as a fuel source was seen as one of the main marketing points of the vehicle. Some of the various fuels it could run on included unleaded gasoline, peanut oil, diesel, kerosene, JP-4, cognac, or even soybean oil, an unintentional benefit of the high operating temperature of the engine.

All That Glitters

The Turbine wasn’t without its flaws. Even with its two massive regenerator discs, the A-831 engine was still an undeniable fuel guzzler, and the car’s 21 gallon fuel tank was evidence of it. Reports state that the vehicle would achieve about 14.5 MPG when driving through towns, and 18-19 when on the highway.
The lowest reports put it as miserably low as 11.5 MPG. About one in every four of the test drivers (50~ people) stated dissatisfaction with the fuel economy, however Chrysler blamed this on people showing off the cars, regarding their reading as more accurate.
If the car was consistently achieving 14.5 MPG, then it was about 0.1 MPG off from the national average, but if it was underachieving as some reported, the problems begin to shine through. A Beetle of 1960 would achieve about 19 MPG on average, a 1963 Corvair about 18. Even accounting for a margin of error, the Turbine suffered in comparison to other small consumer cars. Even cars of a similar size, such as the Dodge Dart, achieved anywhere between 21 to 25 MPG.
The Turbine also wasn’t terribly fast, although it had a decent top speed of 108.5 MPH, its substantial acceleration lag was a point of repeated complaints, with even Chyrsler acknowledging it would have to be addressed. While the issue was fixable via proper training (i.e. flooring it while holding the brake when at a stop), it wasn’t exactly practical. Additionally, the inability of the engine to be braked was a concern on Chrysler’s radar.
Other problems included the inability of the already underpowered engine to be equipped with an AC compressor, which was becoming increasingly popular, the noise of the engine (which received mixed emotions), and two nasty little molecules. Nitrogen oxides, specifically NOx and NO₂, aren’t particularly good for humans, they’re quite the opposite. Problem was, the car produced substantially more than a traditional piston engine. Rather than combusting fuel once per stroke, the A-831 continuously burned fuel, spiking its emissions.
After the end of the UEP, and not wanting to pay the import duties on the Ghia’s bodies, which had been brought in under a tax exemption, Chrysler ordered their destruction. Acessory to the taxes in the cause of the cars destruction, was the threat of seeing these cars out in a used-car lot (or god forbid, with its engine swapped for a piston engine). Nine of the original 55 survive. Of those nine, only five still run.
Following the destruction of the 1963 models, the Chrysler Corporation’s turbine program would continue to develop new engines until the passage of the Clean Air Act finally put it into its death spiral. The EPA’s ever changing requirements would kill multiple engine projects, and in Chrysler’s eyes, all the solutions weren’t cheap. An additional harm was the 1973 fuel crisis, which further compounded the issues with the turbine’s fuel consumption. It just wasn’t economical.
After receiving a loan from, ever ironically, the EPA for $6.4 million, Chrysler would try to turn their sixth-generation engine into a ‘clean’ engine using EEC. But, a series of retirements in the department and the lack of any mass-production framework made it unviable to actually produce the engine in any decent number. In 1981, the plug was finally pulled.

Ethanol and Electricity

In many ways, the Ghia and the turbine development program at Chrysler weren’t unlike any other failed leap into a new type of propulsion for automobiles. It was unique, futuristic sounding, and had everyone convinced that tomorrow was turbine propelled. But ultimately, the traditional piston engine was too ingrained to easily displace from its propulsive empire.
Some may argue that the growth of pure electric or hybrid vehicles is evidence that it’s not impossible to displace the carbon-spewing-engines of most traditional cars, but even those cars are host to a series of issues. Lithium extraction is a pollutant heavy process, alongside the massive amounts of water it requires, and when pit mined, the effects are even greater.
While alternatives to traditional lithium batteries are under development, they’ll still have one final problem; Where they get their charge from.
Electric vehicles ultimately have to plug in to recharge, and most of the time that charge is from the city power grid, which more often than not uses non-renewable fuels. It’s a situation that seemingly can’t be won unless massive power reform occurs before electric cars outnumber traditional-gasoline engines.
This is where the benefits of the gas turbine come in. Every generation of Chrysler turbine could burn anything the driver put into it, so long as it didn’t contain lead. This also means it doesn’t have to choose between gasoline or diesel either, leaving an often underappreciated third option a suitable alternative. Ethanol.
Made of fermented corn, Ethanol has been used as an additive to fuels for decades, and per mile, emits 86 less grams of CO₂. Its fatal flaw however is the amount of land it requires to produce, alongside competing water interests.
Perhaps the best option for this issue is algae fuel. Per gallon, algae fuel emits 5.87 pounds of CO₂. In comparison to the 19 pounds of CO₂ gasoline emits per gallon, it seems like a perfect replacement. An added benefit of the fuel is that so long as there’s water, it’ll grow. Poor quality water isn’t an issue for algae growth, so long as the proper nutrients are fed to it, though depending on the method used, water consumption varies.
Its production also forms a carbon absorption link. Photosynthesis of algae, like most plants, requires CO₂, however, the cultivation of fresh algae would likely be sufficient to offset the carbon produced by burning it as fuel, reducing net carbon release into the atmosphere. It also further solves the nitrogen problem the engines famously suffered from, as the algae being grown also breakdowns nitrogen oxides into their separated components. Research into it is still ongoing, but it’s certainly one of the most viable options for a shorter time to turn around on carbon emissions, and one engine is best fit for the job: the Gas Turbine, an experimental relic with viability long past its date of creation. An engine which requires no additional resources to convert it from one fuel to another, and all on a chassis no different than any other car.
It’s not perfect, no realistic solution is, but it’s an idea that certainly can bridge the gap between today, and a greener tomorrow.

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About the Contributor
Brody Counts
Brody Counts, Staff Writer
Brody Counts (he/him) is a junior at Hayes. This is his first year on staff. Brody can most commonly be found buying obscure research papers or with his head buried in a new book. Outside of school, he enjoys spending time with his pet dogs and dining downtown.
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