Steaming Ahead for the Land Speed Record

Here’s a little change of pace from all the bungled PR and confusion from Toyota we’ve been reporting. Also (no offense, tgriffith), enough already with the Super Bowl and its ads (except for the Kia Sorento sock monkeys in Vegas). Here in Mexico, the game was carried by Fox Sports, and all commercials were locally oriented, for the most part very ordinary, and looked to be locally produced. So we didn’t get to see the high-concept stuff.

Anyhow, here comes Cyclone Power Technologies in Florida, announcing its first completed model heat-regenerative external-combustion (that is, steam) engine. Designed for biomass or most any fuel, the LSR engine powers the U.S. car that will attempt to break the land speed record now held by the U.K.’s Charles Burnett III (above). So if you’re at Bonneville in August, prepare to see the 200-mph barrier broken amid clouds of steam.

The engine weighs less than 200 pounds and generates 180 bhp and 850 lb-ft of torque. Yes, we know it looks like an old-fashioned aircraft radial and sounds like a toy putt-putt on the test stand, but the technology could be revolutionary for cars. Steam power was killed in the 1930s, as one commenter correctly says here (scroll down to “renorally”), but steam has great advantages—producing great power at low weight and running on non-fossil fuels with high efficiency and great application versatility. The LSR engine recycles external heat to run an electric generator.

Popular Science gave the engine its Invention of the Year Award in 2008, and it was also recognized by the Society of Automotive Engineers. We don’t know what Chuk [sic] Williams’ streamlined car will look like yet, but some specs are here. Good luck, guys, and no exploding boilers, please.

Too bad these guys couldn’t afford a Super Bowl ad.

Do you think steam has a future in commercially produced cars?


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  1. Hmmm, is anyone working on commercial production of steam engines for use in cars? The technology certainly sounds like it has advantages for a land-speed-record contender, but I’ll bet they’re not worried so much about costs for that use.

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