Rixon

Why hasn't the steam engine been reborn for modern cars?

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With present gas/pollution concerns and green tech merging with cars left and right. Why hasn't the steam engine been reborn? I mean what takes MORE power, Electricity to move a 1000lb car or heat up a heating element to heat water and make steam? With tanks strong enough to hold Hydrogen for cars why cant the same tech be used for a steam engine? All the fuel you would need would be water but just water for fuel.

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I'm not a steam guy so I'm sure they can give you a better answer then me. However, I would guess that the same issues that made it unpractical relative to internal combustion 80 years ago are probably still true. Time to warm the boiler. Loss of water, or the need to carry both water & fuel. The ultimate issue is gasoline is a highly efficient means of transferring energy with internal combustion being the best way to make it spin a wheel.

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Below is an interesting website with lots of information on steam cars, old and new. The dream is out there. I even have a book at home, published in the 60's or 70's, that goes through great detail how to build a "modern" steam car.

With today's technology (electronics, burner and boiler design, condensate recovery, materials), a truly modern steam car should be very possible.

Peter Brow's Steam Car & Curiosities Pages

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The biggest problem would be (as usual) the lawyers and the insurance companies. Imagine all of these boilers running around and the liabilities involved if, even, one of them exploded and someone was killed or maimed.

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The Stanley brothers solved the "exploding boiler" problem long ago. The boiler shell was wrapped in layers of wire, virtually impossible to destroy with any pressure the boiler could get generate.

Somewhere I read that there were no period "explosions" of Stanley boilers, maybe a steam guy could comment.

There were always fires, though, and owners of steam cars apparently developed a somewhat casual attitude toward a stray flame or two under the hood......

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I thought the next generation of steam engine was right around the corner, the Crower 6 stroke engine. But I haven't heard much for a few years.

From Wikipedia:

The engine cold starts on the Otto cycle, coasting through the fifth and sixth strokes for a short period. After the combustion chamber temperature reaches approximately 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200 °C), a mechanical operation phases in the fifth and sixth strokes. Just before the fifth stroke, water is injected directly into the hot combustion chamber via the engine's fuel injector pump, creating steam and another power stroke. The phase change from liquid to steam removes the excess heat of the combustion stroke forcing the piston down (a second power stroke). As a substantial portion of engine heat now leaves the cylinder in the form of steam, no cooling system radiator is required. A proportion of the energy that is dissipated in conventional arrangements by the radiator in a water-based cooling system has been converted into additional power strokes.

I think this is the original article I read.

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Cyclone Power is developing a modern steam engine , boiler for producing electrical power from waste heat and used oil. Abner Doble cars were the pinnacle of steam cars , pollution free. Jim Crank states it would cost millions to develop a modern steam car , but with global warming, may be it is time to take a fresh look at steam power.

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Fuel mileage. Modern steam powered vehicles can't seem to break the 16 mpg barrier.

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I know that any burner that short cycles such as a unit used to heat a home prevents good efficiency, and therefore a steam generator for a car would be challenged to modulate enough to prevent a lot of short cycling . I would think that with the use of a computer the water pump that controls steam temperature, and the burner that controls boiler pressure the system could be much better controlled than the Doble which J leno say will give 20 m/g pushing a 5000 lb. square car. He says the burner is on and off two or three times a minute , if this burner cycling was present in a home heating unit the cost to operate would be very high . The biggest challenge is reclaiming the latent heat from the spent steam , maybe the condenser used in the Chrysler jet engine car would do the job .Another place to save some fuel is to allow the car to coast .

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Some of you act like water is the only fuel needed for a steam car and that with global warming it would be a great solution. Water is not the fuel, it's simply the working fluid. The fuel is what heats the boiler. Whatever you're burning still creates products of combustion, i.e. pollution.

 

Really, it doesn't matter what you've got, electric, gasoline, steam, nuclear, etc. You need so much energy to propel a vehicle at speeds that people are accustomed to. Whatever the fuel source, it must be capable of delivering at least that much energy PLUS whatever is needed to overcome the inefficiencies of whatever "machinery" is driving the vehicle. If steam were the answer, we'd all be driving steam cars. It must be that the inherent inefficiencies of steam warrant the burning of enough fuel so as to make it impractical for modern application in automobiles. Either that, or the cost to produce a superior steam car is impractical.

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Kinda like the famous compressed air engines for cars, always "just a few years in the future".

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I get a kick out of the push for electric cars, from people thinking that eliminates our dependence on fossil fuels.

 

About 70% of the electrical energy in the United states comes from fossil fuel (coal, gas, petroleum), so even plugging into the wall isn't the answer.

 

It's kinda like the people who don't want to harm animals, so advocate buying your meat at the supermarket "where no animals are hurt".....

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I think horse and buggys should make a come back but then we'd have to put up with the methane gas.

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I wish we could fuel our vehicles with all of the political b/s out there especially coming from the biggest horses ass  I've ever heard!

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I worked in power plant development at a large automotive company in Michigan . I worked in all the "special" power plant areas. Turbine, electric, hydrogen and steam. I was assigned to the steam car development crew. My job was to build a steam car from the ground up just to prove it wouldn't work. We hand built the boiler, engine and transmission. There were always parts or safety factor that were incorporated into the system to make it fail. When we found a remedy , it was not allowed to be tested. One of the favorite problems was the start up time. There is a requirement that an automobile must be able to start and be moving within twenty seconds in sub zero climate. I had a fix for that but they refused to look at it.They plainly wanted to take the budget money but did not want to give the gas engine any competition. They just plainly make too much money on the reciprocating gas and diesel engines. The turbine car that Chrysler Corp had at the Indy race didn't fail a bearing like they said, They simply shut it down on the back stretch to make the spectators think the engine failed. You guys ever hear about the Micro Wave Boiler? 

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On 11/26/2015 at 3:58 AM, trimacar said:

I get a kick out of the push for electric cars, from people thinking that eliminates our dependence on fossil fuels.

 

About 70% of the electrical energy in the United states comes from fossil fuel (coal, gas, petroleum), so even plugging into the wall isn't the answer.

 

It's kinda like the people who don't want to harm animals, so advocate buying your meat at the supermarket "where no animals are hurt".....

 

Actually, even if all the electricity came from 100% fossil fuel powered generators, an electric car charged from the wall outlet would still be less polluting than gasoline(petrol) car due to the fact that only 25-30% of the gasoline is used to move the car forward. An ICE engine is very inefficient, easy and cheap - yes.

 

I have n o idea how a steam powered car could be made to be practical for modern day use. Environmentally friendly - yes, the water could easily be heated by an electric heating element power by hydrogen or batteries.

Edited by maok (see edit history)

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On 11/18/2019 at 3:21 AM, maok said:

I have n o idea how a steam powered car could be made to be practical for modern day use.

 

It's doubtful that will ever happen. The problem with an external combustion engine, virtually any fuel that can be burned in an external combustion chamber can be processed and burned in an internal combustion chamber much more efficiently than using water/steam as a means of transferring the power from the heat, even coal and wood can be gasified and burnt in an I/C engine more efficiently. It takes an enormous amount of heat to boil water with great loss, in a steam plant any flue gases under 300 degrees F are useless and lost, this kills any chance at any competitive economies with it's internal combustion rival. One problem which could be solved is freezing in the winter. Another issue is thermal loss,  I've written the statement many times regarding heated surface that if a surface in a boiler is not seeing fire it's condensing steam. If it's not making it, it's losing it, and why they used to wrap the boilers in wood on the outside, it was insulation. Pressure and temperature of steam are like two meshed gears, whatever one is, the other corresponds.

 

My little Locomobile can achieve around 18 mpg due to it's fuel type, weight and relative low friction drive train. A good running Stanley - 10 hp etc will get about 12 mpg, the larger high performance cars like the Doble with it's 1.2M BTU burner will get in the range of 5 mpg.

 

The key to a modern steam car, is to utilize a source of heat that cannot be used any other way except to boil water. A common mistake made and misconception is that steam cars don't require very much heat, they require an enormous amount of heat, my little Locomobile has a 300k BTU burner, that is enough to heat about three average size homes in the winter. A cookstove burner is about 10k BTU so about 30 of those to get started :)

 

They are pointless, but sure fun to play with.

 

-Ron

Edited by Locomobile (see edit history)

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On 11/18/2019 at 1:46 AM, Turbine Tech said:

My job was to build a steam car from the ground up just to prove it wouldn't work.

 

I think they were just covering all bases of exploration in to alternative power plants, they knew it wouldn't work and didn't want to spend the money trying to fix it i.e. whipping a dead horse. The SES steam car program and Australian pritchard car were probably the two best studies in to a modern steam car and although both were successful, the mileage was abysmal in the sub 20 mpg range. That is what kills the modern steam vehicle. No big conspiracy.

 

-Ron

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