Mike,
First of all, I'm an old Navy (600 lb steamplant) man and an avid railfan so I actually do have a soft spot in my heart for steam engines. We had a 600 lb turbine system.
I also happen to be a 40+ year old electrical engineer so, as much as I love steam, I suspect that, for portable applications, its feasibility is questionable, unlike electric motors.
The reason the ability to touch an electric motor is important is that the inefficiency of a motor is generally caused by the heat that is produced. As you know a great deal of heat is generated by most IC engines and steam engines that can be challenging and expensive to recover. If you can touch a motor, there isn't much wasted energy since it is all going into the mechanical work being done.
The efficiency of the electric motor is why a modern electric car such as the EV1 and the Tesla can go 120 and 240 miles per charge (respectively) while the batteries (which hold very little energy per mass than gasoline) in them hold only about the equivalent of 1 and 2 gallons (respectively) of gas.
It really is easy with electric motors. They can easily be over 90% efficient. Look around yourself. Go ahead and google "electric motor efficiency" don't take my word for it..