Steam Power?

So as I've posted here several times in the past, this winter coming up I'd like to build another truck, and this time I'd like to not only build something more imposing than my last truck, but something that can truly go anywhere. Not only do I want it to be able to handle any territory and environment (including being amphibious), but I'd like it to be very versatile in terms of fuel.

Initially I'd considered a completely portable gasification system (basically it lets you turn organic garbage into fuel that can be fed into a traditional engine), but I've moved away from that to something more classic — I want my truck to have a steam engine!

Before you decide I'm an idiot, let me tell you what I'm thinking — to maintain a 55 mph speed in a car about the size of what I want to build consumes in about fifteen to twenty horsepower. You just need a lot more than that for rapid acceleration. Another thing to point out is that “steam horsepower” is that it has almost unlimited torque

A steam engine can produce maximum torque at almost 0 rpm. If you have ever seen an old 10 to 16 horsepower steam tractor at a "tractor pull" pulling against our modern 400+ horsepower gas engines, you will understand. The steam tractor always wins.

Modular and modern 20 hp steam engines that can be clustered for more power — and they're basically indestructible (rated for about 10,000 hours at full throttle between bearing replacements and so on, versus about 100 hours at full throttle for a normal car engine). In terms of “average power needed”, modern steam technology is completely capable. But still, the problem as I see it is that it's not really a throttleable or responsible driveline option in the way we expect a modern car to be (which I suspect is the main reason that gas engines dominate today — they are an incredible solution in terms of something that can throttle power quickly over a wide range).

My thought is that the way to make a steam engine work in a modern car is to have some way of buffering or storing, and then releasing the power to the driveline. Probably the easiest way of doing this would be to have a secondary electric driveline (like in a hybrid car), so that the consistent power from the steam engine can be stored in either battery banks or a large capacitor array (which would be able to release terrifying bursts). A secondary option is to use pneumatic engines (so basically you're storing kinetic energy in the form of compressed air in a 5000psi tank).

Coupled with boilers with a burner unit that can be swapped (so you can choose to run off of logs, or coal, or wood chips, or even just propane), and maybe weirder things like firing the exhaust into Hilsch vortex tubes to both extract waste heat and power the air conditioning, I think you could build a vehicle that would be functional in nearly every environment and not just relatively reliable and indestructible, but also something that could be maintained in the field with relatively simple tools.

I really should have gotten myself an engineering degree (so as to avoid potentially talking out of my ass). Any hot, single engineering types reading this that want to move to the middle of nowhere and build monster trucks and websites? Surely I can't be the only one that thinks that would be the good life?

Well, I'm off to eat supper and then go dogsitting.

Wow Shannon, that's really annoying! What is it, 1997 on Geocities? Retroweb is NOT cool!

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