Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 30 of 39

Thread: Wood burning hybrid steam car

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Posts
    3,464

    Wood burning hybrid steam car

    Wood and selected biomass are available free in many locations, but there is significant labor and a bit of hazard sorting, and cutting it, and stoking the wood burner, which powers a steam turbine which powers the rear wheels = all the torque you could possibly want when the fire is burning well. At start up and poor fire, the front wheels are electrically powered by a small battery, which assures at least 45 mph except up the steepest hills. The catelytic converter for home wood stoves, is already mature technology, so EPA should be agreeable. A device similar to an electric charcoal lighter can likely get the fire started in a few minutes, powered by the battery which can be charged by the steam turbine when there is surplus torque or steam available.
    Typically a few minutes connected to the utility would bring the battery to full charge, or you can keep the fire burning and power your house significantly when the car is at home. Possibly your car can preheat the hot water for the hot water tank which can significantly heat your home. Please refute, correct, embellish and/or comment. Neil

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Posts
    1,677
    You can throw coal in it too. I hope we don't come to that. Where I live in S. California, a lot of people like a wood fire in the winter. So on cold nights it's pretty smokey in the neighborhood. If everyone did it, it would be unbearable. I doubt that it's good to breath.

    Didn't know about catalytic converters for wood stoves. A future problem my be that the lumber is too valuable to burn. There is plenty of coal of course.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Location
    Depew, NY
    Posts
    10,150
    Jay Leno has a couple steam powered cars. He was featured on Modern Marvels and he drove two of them around. This episode is on Netflix if you have it. They have problems with stopping, so he had to run stop signs. Presumably, he can't idle as the steam pressure builds up. Another issue is the car makes very little noise relative to a regular car, so that is a safety issue. Jay also set himself on fire lighting the car's boiler, so the electric option you mentioned is a must. Another issue is the steam powered car eventually runs out of water and has do some rather annoying things when the steam pressure get too high. They vent. This isn't a pollution issue, its more the fact that you blinded and scared other drivers. It makes a terrible noise and the steam looks like rocket exhaust.

    On the other hand, he has an awesome horn thats sounds like a train.

    What I have ignored is the fact that an electric-steam hybrid might be able to idle and charge the batteries. That is three different power sources all under one hood: the wood, the water and the batteries. That's a lot of weight, but it has been done before.

    Now, a bus powered by steam might be more practical, they are bigger and can be restricted to a single lane so they can vent at will. A hybrid steam-electric bus would be very neat, but perhaps it would have a different power profile: Electricity to get higher speeds and steam at low speed. Being much large than a car, you have all sorts of inherent safety features simply by virtue of size. You can keep the people away from the dangerous stuff and buffer the batteries against impact by placing them in the center of the bus, on the bottom. Perhaps you could even hot swap batteries when they die with a pit-like garage. That would be an even bigger advantage.
    Solfe, Dominus Maris Pavos.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Falls Church, VA (near Washington, DC)
    Posts
    7,250
    Operation of a steam engine is inherently more complicated than that of an internal combustion engine, especially when using solid fuel. Even with clean liquid fuels or natural gas, there is the need to either anticipate a stop or blow the safety valve when stopping, as you still have a head of steam even after cutting back on the fire. I don't see it as a practical option for most ordinary motorists.

    My father grew up alongside a railroad yard in the 1930s, and he was as nostalgic as anyone about steam locomotives. Yet he acknowledged that the railroads made a sound operational decision in switching to diesel-electric locomotives as the technology matured.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Posts
    5,386
    Stirling engines would be much safer than steam, and wouldn't require monitoring of things such as water supply, steam pressure, etc. They also work well with free-piston designs, reducing moving parts and incorporating electrical power generation into the engine. A hybrid approach with a battery pack charged by the engine would solve much of the problems with rapid changes in power demands...after stopping, it could run a while to charge batteries, and automatically close dampers to reduce power when they're nearly charged.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Posts
    3,464
    I read the 2008 steam train thread suggested by the Cosmo Quest computer, so I now know some additional problems. In worst case of too much steam pressure the computer can do dynamic breaking with the front wheels and use the surplus steam to power the rear wheels = increased tire wear, but charges the battery and avoids the sound polution of venting steam. If the battery is fully charged the computer can electrically preheat the boiler feed water, when the steam pressure is excessive.
    I'll guess a million wood burning cars in Florida before we use up the wood scraps and suitable biomass, most of which presently goes to land fills, so we should not sell more than a million wood burning cars in Florida, but one million is a significant help to several problems. Likely there are fewer than one million Floridians who would want a wood burning car. I suppose most States and Countries have fewer fast growing trees than Florida.
    Yes electric cars run quiet and should have a sound system that makes them sound like a gas or diesel vehicle. The computer could turn on the sound automatically when the car's radar detects another vehicle or pedestrian in a position of possible danger, even adjusting the volume of the sound to an appropriate level for the distance and ambient sound level.The sound of screecing breaks should get their attention.
    The catelytic converters are manditory for wood stoves where I live.
    With my wood stove adding big peices of green (not dry) wood cools a too hot fire quickly short term such as waiting at a stoplight. The computer could do that automatically. Since we have two sources of torque, both can be slightly under powered, reducing the probability of too much steam pressure.
    Apparently you thinking of hot helium powered stirling engines that don't use water.The pdf suggests 575 degrees c. Difficult to achieve from a small wood stove the first hour with poor quality wood, but possible with preheated combustion air. Neil
    Last edited by neilzero; 2013-Feb-09 at 05:59 AM. Reason: More embellishments

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Earth
    Posts
    9,377
    Unless that steam engine has a condenser, its thermodynamic efficiency won't be much better than 2% or so, which means that it would be more efficient to burn the fuel in a central power plant (nameplate efficiency about 40%), send it along in wires, and charge the battery at the other end.

    Also, Stirling engines would be better than steam: a free-piston Stirling engine with a linear alternator (http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/ca...1992022018.pdf) would be nearly ideal.
    Last edited by swampyankee; 2013-Feb-10 at 12:06 AM.

    Information about American English usage here and here. Floating point issues? Please read this before posting.

    How do things fly? This explains it all.

    Actually they can't: "Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible." - Lord Kelvin, president, Royal Society, 1895.



  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    R.I. USA
    Posts
    9,778
    The smart money is on steam/electric. You can enjoy the instant power electric affords and enjoy the thermal efficiency of a closed loop steam turbine system which can run at a standard rate, putting energy into the battery, even when the car is stopped and or parked. In cold climates, it will be even more efficient, having a condenser recover the steam ( or other
    fluid used ). An iron/nickel battery might be a good fit for a charge/discharge system like this, averaging out the power used and required for operation. You can employ nearly any fuel that makes heat.

    Dan

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Posts
    1,679
    Howard Hughes and Bill Lear (who built the Lear Jet and 8-track tapes among hundreds of other inventions) both tried their hands at building steam cars.
    The big problem, they realized, is that very few owners would wait the 5minutes or so it takes to start one and build up steam.
    Building them light enough to work in a car also makes them kinda explodey....

    My Dad worked with steam equipment back in the '30s and we went to a lot of midwestern steam shows
    back in the 60s-70s when I was growing up. I have a huge respect for the power in steam.
    A couple of years ago my one friend and I went on a big car museum tour through Indiana and Michigan
    and there are a LOT of steam and electric vehicles in the museums up there, they were very viable in the
    late-1800s to 1930ish.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    R.I. USA
    Posts
    9,778
    With steam/electric, you don't have to wait. A small ceramic 75 HP turbine would do the job.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Earth
    Posts
    9,377
    There were quite a few reasonably successful steam cars until the 1930s -- the best were probably the Dobles. Stanleys, at least, were never reported to have had a boiler explosion. Dobles (which don't seem to have exploded, either) could be started and driven off in less than 2 minutes in winter.

    Information about American English usage here and here. Floating point issues? Please read this before posting.

    How do things fly? This explains it all.

    Actually they can't: "Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible." - Lord Kelvin, president, Royal Society, 1895.



  12. #12
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Location
    Denmark
    Posts
    18,442
    And if you don't want to do steam but still want to do CO2 neutral wood, there's the pyrolysis/internal combustion option.
    __________________________________________________
    Reductionist and proud of it.

    Being ignorant is not so much a shame, as being unwilling to learn. Benjamin Franklin
    Chase after the truth like all hell and you'll free yourself, even though you never touch its coat tails. Clarence Darrow
    A person who won't read has no advantage over one who can't read. Mark Twain

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Posts
    3,464
    Yes typical wood stoves do some pyroylsis which puts significant voitiles up the chimney (which shorten the life of the catylitic converter) which could possibly power an internal combustion engine. 99% oxygen which may be cheap if we make lots of hydrogen by electroysis, may sometimes be beneficial to internal combustion engines instead of 21% oxygen. Unfortunately triple or more hybrids have high initial and repair costs. Neil

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    R.I. USA
    Posts
    9,778
    Closed cycle steam is pretty simple with automatic injection feed liquid (water...whatever ) and a simple generator output
    using a battery float charge. Ancient submarine technology. You simply have to want it. If someone said " Hey, we got
    85 miles per gallon with this set-up" , you would see some interest. If gasoline doubles in price, things will change ...quick.
    Dan

  15. #15
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Earth
    Posts
    9,377
    Quote Originally Posted by danscope View Post
    Closed cycle steam is pretty simple with automatic injection feed liquid (water...whatever ) and a simple generator output
    using a battery float charge. Ancient submarine technology. You simply have to want it. If someone said " Hey, we got
    85 miles per gallon with this set-up" , you would see some interest. If gasoline doubles in price, things will change ...quick.
    Dan
    Closed-cycle steam is complex enough, labor intensive enough, and inefficient enough so that it has just about disappeared from merchant marine service, as diesels, especially low-speed diesels are more efficient and much easier to operate. Rails gave up on steam a long time ago, and despite some steam enthusiasts' dreams, it's never coming back.

    If somebody were to claim 85 mpg with a automotive-sized Rankine-based hybrid system, I'd require quite extraordinary proof: I'd find the claim in von Däniken territory of believability. Eighty-five mpg is very difficult with Diesel technology, and utility-sized Rankine plants are less efficient than much smaller diesels: the biggest low speed diesels are only about a tenth the size of a typical utility Rankine plant, and demonstrate greater efficiency (only big low speed diesels have demonstrated thermodynamic efficiency over 50%; the best steam plants are still below that).

    An automotive Rankine plant is going to operate with a higher condenser temperature and correspondingly lower ratio of high to low temperature, less efficient turbomachinery, boiler, and pumps, and greater parasitic losses than a utility-sized plant, all of which will reduce the achievable efficiency, and make a car-sized plant much less efficient than a diesel of comparable power.

    Information about American English usage here and here. Floating point issues? Please read this before posting.

    How do things fly? This explains it all.

    Actually they can't: "Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible." - Lord Kelvin, president, Royal Society, 1895.



  16. #16
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Posts
    2,406
    Quote Originally Posted by swampyankee View Post
    Closed-cycle steam is complex enough, labor intensive enough, and inefficient enough so that it has just about disappeared from merchant marine service, as diesels, especially low-speed diesels are more efficient and much easier to operate. Rails gave up on steam a long time ago, and despite some steam enthusiasts' dreams, it's never coming back.

    If somebody were to claim 85 mpg with a automotive-sized Rankine-based hybrid system, I'd require quite extraordinary proof: I'd find the claim in von Däniken territory of believability. Eighty-five mpg is very difficult with Diesel technology, and utility-sized Rankine plants are less efficient than much smaller diesels: the biggest low speed diesels are only about a tenth the size of a typical utility Rankine plant, and demonstrate greater efficiency (only big low speed diesels have demonstrated thermodynamic efficiency over 50%; the best steam plants are still below that).

    An automotive Rankine plant is going to operate with a higher condenser temperature and correspondingly lower ratio of high to low temperature, less efficient turbomachinery, boiler, and pumps, and greater parasitic losses than a utility-sized plant, all of which will reduce the achievable efficiency, and make a car-sized plant much less efficient than a diesel of comparable power.
    I think you are going to run into some issues here. See these threads pop up on a regular basis where an idea that is plainly insane gets built upon by more and more bad ideas with no data to support them. People with absolutely no background in engineering come up with the least cost effective and efficient ideas and can't believe that the world doesn't listen. So good luck.

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    R.I. USA
    Posts
    9,778
    Hi, I wonder if it has ever been tried or demonstrated?

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Posts
    5,386
    A Stirling engine has no high-pressure steam, no tubing, no valves, no boiler, no pumps, no water levels to monitor, and can easily integrate electrical power production into the engine itself. Why would you use steam?

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    R.I. USA
    Posts
    9,778
    Hi Lotus, I admit it sounds peculiar. The question was simply academic. IC is obviously going to be with us for some time.
    Did you think I was advocating 1200 lb steam?
    Dan

  20. #20
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Earth
    Posts
    9,377
    Quote Originally Posted by danscope View Post
    Hi Lotus, I admit it sounds peculiar. The question was simply academic. IC is obviously going to be with us for some time.
    Did you think I was advocating 1200 lb steam?
    Dan
    Utility steam plants start at about 2,500 psi; many use super critical steam. A fairly low pressure plant, like a 1,200 psi plant, would not be considered for a utility plant today, although it might be considered for the bottoming cycle in a combined-cycle plant.

    Information about American English usage here and here. Floating point issues? Please read this before posting.

    How do things fly? This explains it all.

    Actually they can't: "Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible." - Lord Kelvin, president, Royal Society, 1895.



  21. #21
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    R.I. USA
    Posts
    9,778
    Exactly, and what I was thinking. But I have no experience in small turbines . But I was reading up on a company called
    "Green Turbine" which was making a small turbine dovetailing with solar generated steam and wood pellets, a unit of say
    2 KW, and are working on a 15 KW unit.
    "
    GREEN TURBINEtm is now ready to take orders for the Green Turbine 1.2 kW and we're working on the development of the 15 kW machine.
    So, apparently someone is looking into small domestic steam turbines for power and heating applications .
    We may yet see smoe advance in this technology ...... well down the road .

  22. #22
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Posts
    1
    If Ford did the research into steam power instead of gas power we would all be driving steam cars now. This was stated many years ago. What killed the steam car was the electric starter. There are a few people working on the steam engines for cars now, but they are in the minority. The problems in the early days of steam power were resolved by Doble, He was able to have the car from cold to running in 30 seconds. this was in about 1925 but was too late by then. The operation of early steam cars required a good deal of knowledge, By 1925 it was automatic, just flip a switch on the dash and go 30 seconds later. But steam power was dead by then.
    Fuel needed, wood is a poor fuel source, it requires a lot of it. Btu's per pound of wood is approx. 8,000. Oil is 19,000 so it makes sense to use the latter. The water issue was also solved with condensing. In the late 60's GM did a research project on steam power, They used a production car and removed the gas engine and installed a steam engine they designed and it all fit under the hood. The project was completed then shelved. Safety was never a problem on the later boiler designs. Now days with the materials we have and the knowledge it would be possible to product a car again. The problem is the oil Moguls put fear into people about boiler explosions.

  23. #23
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Posts
    5,386
    The oil moguls didn't want people burning oil in steam cars? I think you're a bit off the mark there.

    Part of the problem was well-earned fear of boiler explosions and a reputation for complexity. Advanced designs might have been safer and simpler, but even if they were on par with internal combustion engines, a reputation based on a couple centuries of experience isn't going to change overnight. Combined with the fact that even those advanced designs with centuries of development behind them were still behind the new internal combustion engines in power to weight ratio and startup time...you don't need an oil conspiracy to account for the abandonment of steam.

  24. #24
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Earth
    Posts
    9,377
    Oil moguls would probably weep for joy with widespread use of steam cars; they'd get to sell so more oil because the steam cars would need more fuel for the same level of performance. Diesel and electrification didn't kill the steam locomotive because of some conspiracy, but because steam's economics were worse. Marine steam engines are moribund, again because of economics. Steam is simply an inferior technology for any kind of mobile application driven by economy. There is work on alternatives to spark ignition and diesel engines for cars, but the only one which I think makes sense is the fuel cell.

    Information about American English usage here and here. Floating point issues? Please read this before posting.

    How do things fly? This explains it all.

    Actually they can't: "Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible." - Lord Kelvin, president, Royal Society, 1895.



  25. #25
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Posts
    5,386
    That is another issue. I didn't mention efficiency because it wasn't really a factor in the shift (early internal combustion engines were not particularly efficient), but steam is fundamentally limited to lower efficiencies due to the lower operating temperature.

    The main modern advantage of steam vehicles today would be their ability to operate with a wide range of solid and liquid fuels in areas where refined fuels are not reliably available. The wider range of fuels would probably result in a less efficient boiler and more primitive control system, but that's okay...you're using steam because efficiency is less of a concern than fuel availability. It does mean that safety is a bit more of a concern, which is why Stirling engines are an interesting alternative.

  26. #26
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Falls Church, VA (near Washington, DC)
    Posts
    7,250
    In the not too distant past, maybe 20 years or so, there was a market for used British-made steam locomotives in parts of Africa because diesel-electric locomotives were expensive to buy in places where there was a shortage of capital, and there was an abundance of semiskilled workers who could be trained as boilermakers and steamfitters for maintenance. The old engines could run on all sorts of lower grade fuel as well, another advantage in that economic environment.

  27. #27
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Posts
    10,577
    Steam has its advantages

  28. #28
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Posts
    2,406
    Like?

  29. #29
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Falls Church, VA (near Washington, DC)
    Posts
    7,250
    Quote Originally Posted by publiusr View Post
    Steam has its advantages
    Quote Originally Posted by LotusExcelle
    Like?
    In the early days of diesel-electric locomotives, there were things a steam locomotive could do better, such as start a heavy train from a standstill. A steam piston engine delivers maximum torque at a standstill, and can turn the wheels directly without gears or clutches, which were a nightmare at that large scale. A diesel engine is incapable of anything unless it already is turning when the fuel ignites in the cylinders. With electric drive in lieu of the aforementioned mechanical transmission arrangements, an eager beaver engineer could burn up the motors while attempting full power at a standstill. It was not uncommon for a steam locomotive to serve as a helper, giving the train a starting push until the diesel's motors were turning fast enough to develop sufficient back voltage to limit the current and prevent overheating. Once the train was moving a few mph, it was off to the races as the diesel was at its best at cruising speed and was more efficient. Over the past few decades, advances in the technology of the electric drive have solved the early drawbacks and enabled the railroads to take full advantage of the higher thermal efficiency, reduced maintenance costs and simpler operation of the diesel-electric locomotives.

    An old railroader once told me that in his youth, "A steamer can start a train it can't run while a diesel can run a train it can't start."
    Last edited by Hornblower; 2014-Jan-27 at 12:12 AM. Reason: Fix quote tags

  30. #30
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Posts
    2,406
    Had is past tense. Diesel electrics are in use todays overwhelmingly not only for their efficiency but for their safety in comparison. I shudder at the thought of steam operated vehicles in the wild on the streets.

Similar Threads

  1. The Sun Blows Off a Little Steam
    By Fraser in forum Universe Today
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: 2012-Jan-04, 04:10 PM
  2. Is burning wood net 0 CO2?
    By tommac in forum Science and Technology
    Replies: 87
    Last Post: 2011-Apr-12, 05:13 PM
  3. Return to Steam?
    By Sticks in forum Off-Topic Babbling
    Replies: 81
    Last Post: 2008-Sep-02, 10:36 PM
  4. Blowing off some steam
    By Rammspieler in forum Off-Topic Babbling
    Replies: 6
    Last Post: 2007-Jan-23, 08:26 PM
  5. Steam Giants
    By TimberWolf in forum Astronomy
    Replies: 8
    Last Post: 2004-Sep-08, 11:14 PM

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •