British Steam Car

The land-speed record for steam-powered locomotion has been holding steady for 88 years at 127mph, but a team of British engineers and stunt drivers will attempt to break it with the Steam Car.

The Steam Car works by burning liquid petroleum fuel at 750° F, which heats 10.5 gallons of water, converting into steam. The steam passes through lagged pipes before it is injected into the 360-hp Curtis turbine at extremely high pressure and speed via compressed air hydraulics. It spins the turbine at over 13,000 rpm, powering the rear wheels, allowing the car to reach speeds higher than 150mph. The car itself is 25 feet long and uses about 1.86 miles of tubing. All of the hot pressurized steam is ejected from the exhaust, which means the car is only capable of running for about 3 minutes, and requires an 8-minute warmup.

The attempt to break the speed record will occur in late August at Bonneville.

[via Newlaunches]

8 thoughts on “British Steam Car

  1. Hmm, liquid petroleum fuel, sounds exotic. Then again, not nearly as exotic as compressed air hydraulics, which I’m certain are *much* cooler than pneumatics.


  2. You’ve got me rolling wolf.

    These people are using steam in the most asinine way possible. It makes me cringe. I’m impressed by how fast they get superheated steam, but using a normal fuel and waiting to build up a conventional head, using a multiple expansion engine, pressurizing and condensing spent steam to send it back to the boiler hot and sacrificing rpm for a transmission with a few really tall gears would not only break their record, but probably top out gas by a hard margin.

    Also, I’m pretty sure steam powered rocket cars were breaking 260MPH as early as the 1960’s.

  3. there’s nothing asinine about the setup. Yes they could get much better efficiency by condensing the steam back down but the condensers required to deal with that much steam would be massive and extremely heavy, and probably wouldn’t work very well. This is a land speed record first and foremost, and worrying about fuel efficiency with them is the truly asinine thing to do.

    Also, they can’t build up a conventional head under the bonneville salt flats rules… they are required to use monotube boilers. Monotube boilers work best when they’re creating steam on demand, as they are doing here.

    Attempts to make steam automobiles with transmissions were few and all were miserable failures. The Doble Model E for instance made only about 75 hp, continuously, but was capable of far more power than that for short bursts, and put out over 1600 ft-lbs of torque. Good luck making a transmission that’ll work with that that doesn’t weigh as much as the rest of the car.

  4. Sure, it’d weigh a ton, but at least it would run for more than three seconds and they’d exercise something practical. So long as it’s a speed record they’re shooting for and not acceleration I think it could be achieved with some clever shifting.

    Then again, what do I know? I’ve hardly ever seen steam outside of hobby groups and I’m sure there may a million rules I’ve never seen before roping these guys into a certain design. I just wish it were more of a tech demo than a waste race.

  5. have you even looked at the work they’ve been doing? it IS a freaking tech demo. controlling that many separate steam generators and routing everything without having anything explode is a pretty incredible feat. Also, one of their primary goals was to show how steam power can be much less polluting… their burners are actually damn good for NOx, CO, and HC emissions, especially compared to an IC engine powered land speed record car of similar specs.

    No clever shifting is going to make up for having to deal with thousands of foot pounds of torque.

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