Steam-electric hybrid auto
External Combustion of fuel with forced-air draft produces less pollution and what is produced is more easily controlled. EC can use any liquid or gaseous fuel so it is the ultimate in multi-fuel use. Ideally we would use biofuels so that the CO2 emissions would simply be recycled in growing crops to make biofuels. [Biofuels are another subject.] EC does not require highly refined fuels and could use ethanol, vegetable oil, propane, natural gas, methane,furnace fuel oil, kerosene, liquified coal, synthetic fuels and even hydrogen whenever it becomes practical.
The engine best suited to EC is the steam engine, but as direct power to the wheels it has drawbacks, 1. a wait of at least 30 seconds before the car can move, 2. you can't "gun it" and 3. the water can freeze. By using the steam engine to run an alternator to charge batteries which power reversible electric motors at each wheel the car could move immediately and you could "gun it". By using electric heat strips there would be no problem with freezing.
Forced air burners are efficient. Water tube boilers do not explode and make a lot of steam in a small size. There are tested and proven designs for steam engines which can be made lighter using modern alloys. Steam engines have fewer moving parts to wear out or break down, so they should last longer than IC engines. A 1930 Doble 2 cylinder compound uniflow engine has gone over 600,000 mi. with only regular maintenance.
Since the car would have an electric motor at each wheel there would be no transmission, differential or CV joints. This would compensate for any extra weight involved in the EC components. The motor/wheel unit would move to steer and a computer would replace the differential by varying the speed of each wheel. The same computer would control all engine and power functions.
The computer would automatically start the steam engine/alternator to maintain battery charge and stop it when at proper charge. When parked in a parking lot in freezing weather the heat strips would use electricity and the steam engine would be automatically started to charge the batteries. However if there were an electric outlet available, such as when in your own driveway, the car would have a cord to plug in and save fuel.
There is waste heat from the burner exhaust and from the spent steam which can be converted using thermo-electrics into extra electricity to increase the efficiency of the system. Regenerative braking is also a possible option for increasing efficiency.
I have had contacts with steam-power buffs. They refuse to consider anything but direct steam drive. Internal combustion people say steam is dangerous, boilers explode and the engines are obsolete. [All false.] They refuse to open their minds too. I hope to find some who will consider this idea, think of improvements and actually build a steam-electric car. Except for size all the designs for the burners, boilers and engines exist and need only a good machine shop. The other components are already being made and could be bought, even the controls and computer. The thermo-electrics may also be available. The high efficiency electric motors are for sale.
If I had money, a machine shop and did not have two left thumbs I would build one. I have hopes that someone out there might be inspired to do this. If so, let me know.
I think it's quite foolish
I think it's quite foolish that steam power isn't used. But then again, it would destroy/change the way everything runs now. How much would it cost to put together a workshop for making an engine, as well as building one? (estimate)
I am in complete agreement
I am in complete agreement of your conclusion that external combustion steam-electric would be the wisest choice for future transportation motors. Dependence on fossil fuels is bad news on many levels - it's just this sort of new direction we must take to assure our future generations will have a life of relative comfort as we have enjoyed during this Age of Oil.
I also have a very small home machine shop and I need work. :)
I do, however, believe in lowest-cost and lowest-tech solutions. The Cyclone engine is a work of art, but we can be rougher about this. While my view doesn't comply with traditional profit-making corporate methods, I do think it could allow more folks to own, maintain and repair their engines. In particular, I've heard that IC engines have been re-purposed, as it were, to be steam-driven. Sounds feasible, low-cost and many parts become available at commodity prices ... that's the way I'm leaning in my thoughts.
A smattering of science and engineering education and experience would serve me and any possible partners well in pursuit of successful development of such a noble project. It can be done; there are no engineering or materials breakthroughs necessary. I would love to hear from anyone serious in getting started on this.
Thanks for putting this subject up!!
I have been wanting to do
I have been wanting to do this for a very long time ( about 2 years)
I am a computer engineer and always wanted to drive a steam car such as a stanley steamer.
I do not know where to start really, but would definitely love to build/drive one!