Steam Challenge update

Inspiration: steam car
Inspiration: steam car
The British Steam Car Challenge project, which plans to establish steam powered vehicle speed records on three continents, is working on a revised engine installation which will necessarily delay completion of the car, called Inspiration.

Recent boiler and dynamometer tests revealed a small problem with boiler efficiency in the steam turbine-powered machine. Resolving this has, in turn, resulted in a problem packaging the drivetrain within the current body design. A revised installation is being devised that does not adversely affect the aerodynamic performance of Inspiration or its power output – both factors critical to reaching the projected top speed of more than 200mph.

However, the project team is conscious that 2006 is the anniversary of the current land speed record for a steam powered car – held by Fred Marriott, driving a Stanley Steamer, and established in 1906.

Project manager Frank Swanston said: “Unfortunately, setbacks are inevitable with such a technically complex project as this. We are still working as hard as ever to complete the car this year and attempt the records.”

What is the Steam Car Challenge?

The British Steam Car Challenge was conceived with the aim both of breaking the land speed record for steam powered vehicles and creating excitement in the arena of alternate fuels. The organisers hope that the project will generate interest among the next generation of engineers and designers to work toward cleaner and safer forms of transportation, both public and private.

The first mention of a steam powered vehicle will usually conjure images of ancient tiller steered motor cars and pre-war rail engines. It was during the early nineteen hundreds that the petrol engine gained dominance in the personal transportation marketplace. Many ascribe this shift to market and business pressures rather than technological advancements or lack thereof. A big argument for this shift is the dominance of the steam turbine in the power generation sector of the economy.

While not exactly new in concept, steam-powered vehicles have potential that today’s internal combustion engines lack. The compact size and robust power density figures make internal combustion engines attractive, but their drawbacks also stem from their popularity, according to the steam enthusiasts. It relies on highly refined hydrocarbon based fuels, while the external combustion engine isn't fuel-specific, so any fuel can be used, including the cleanest fuel, direct sunlight.

Leading edge technologies have been employed to make the record attempt possible, according to the project leaders. The development phase includes over 18 months of proof-of-concept and research work on the steam generation and power delivery systems.

The team and supporters hope to bring another land speed record to Britain. The car is being designed and constructed in the UK, and the first of two record attempts will be made in the UK.

Comments (35) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Black Angel 25 Sep 2006

    Andrew D what exactly are you talking about? Steam would be better anyway for if you use a condeser system similar to Aber Dobles you can have a car which can run at least 1100 miles on 1 tank of water plus steam pressure pushes the piston down for it to work in the engine so steam or water is the fuel you also need fuel for the boiler to heat the water up.

    Plus the steam goes through the engine and becomes water again, early steam cars use to have water coming out of the back not steam still an brilliant Amercian Engineer called Aber Doble developed a condenser so that thwe escaping water was recaptured so that could used again and again , which even the leading steam car builders the White Car company wanted to put into their cars and they actually did put in condensers in the steam cars , biut they were never as efficent ir as good as Abner Doles, therefore much more cleaner and efficient than the internal combustion engine which loses alot of energy through heat heance BMW trying to do the same principal with te teat and the doesn't leave all the pollutants and smog and ICE engine does. So Cyberface steam cars do not kill planets you are wrong there, Yes water vapour maybe a greenhouse gas but you won't get it from a steam car because you can set up a steam car with condensers and a water tank so it doesn't. Plus the statement that carrying water blunts perfomance for fuel is rubbish . Check these links http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steam_ca http://ghlin2.greenhills.net/~apatter
    http://itotd.com/articles/594/doble-s www.steamcar.net/index.html and look around for Doble on the Internet to see how wrong both of you are. For instance did you know that a Doble beat a Dusenburg twice? and that Howard Hughes when he was young used to beat the other rich young men in the 20's with their Cords, ,Cadilllacs, Auburns and Silver Arrows? plus it is very well known that a properly set up steam car can leave an internal combustion engined car in its wake with only a properly set up electric car using Lithum Ion or Zinc to Air or Air Aluminium or even NMIH batteries able the match its acceleration and performance.

    I suggest you both do some research on that score. And thinfourth I think you will find that condenser and steam engines with excellent performance has been done and perfected from at least
    1914.

    Edited by Black Angel on Monday 25th September 14:37


    Edited by Black Angel on Monday 25th September 14:39


    Edited by Black Angel on Thursday 28th September 03:57

  • Salaam1334 26 Jul 2006

    Rob-C said:
    They probably do have water cooled condensers (cooled by lake water) with some steam ejector vacuum pumps to keep the condensers under vacuum. I'd guess that the plume of steam from the stack is just the exhaust steam from the vacuum pumps.

    On-topic though, the record attempt is obviously not aimed at overall efficiency - looking at the link, it's using four LPG boilers and a once-through steam turbine, no condenser. The car will carry just enough water for one quick run and that's it.

    It should leave quite an impressive plume in its wake, but you wouldn't want to tailgate it


    Yeah, upon further reading I tracked down the statistics, they use once through water cooled condensors at that plant.

    Seriously though, thanks for telling me that without calling me something rude like thefourth did.

    I agree with your statement as well, they are wanting to break a speed record. Efficency is not exactly in their mission agenda. Kind of in the sameway that exotic high powered cars aren't built to be efficient (Veyron 16/4 with that W16 engine anyone?). lol.

  • Salaam1334 26 Jul 2006

    thinfourth said:
    I am beginning to believe you have zero knowledge about this, though i shall see you i can widen your knowledge a little bit

    You say that the local power plant is hugely efficient but you also claim you see loads of steam coming from the turbines straight to atmosphere. Steam is energy so you must be wrong on one of those accounts

    You claim they use lake water in the boilers Could you please explain exactly how they run the distillation plant without the normal energy loses you get with these pieces of kit

    Now here comes the biggy please tell me how you are going to twist the rules of thermodynamics to get 80% efficiency from a steam plant that fits under the bonnet of a car.


    What i suspect you are seeing is lots of water vapour in the boiler exhaust stacks as you can only recover so much heat from the waste gases from the boilers by removing the waste heat. A side effect of this is if you go too low you get water condensing an combing with any sulphor dioxide to for acid, on a marine plant we limit the amount of heat we remove to maintain a higher temp. Now in a shoreside plant they can deal with the acids more easily so they can recover more heat therefore they end up with lower temps and as a side effect you get visible water vapour in your uptakes.

    Back to them not using condensers highly unlikely however with a shoreside plant in some places they use waste steam for heating in the surrounding areas another method is they use the waste heat recovered from the condensers to heat water that is then piped to the surrounding building and they get very cheap heating. this is becoming more fashionable as it increases the overall plant efficiency by using waste heat. They are known as CHaP Combined Heat and Power.

    Now CHaP will not work in a car as the amount of heat wasted from producing enough power to move it along is far in excess of the heat needed to keep the car warm so unless you plan on building a really big slow motorhome steam ain't ever going to beat the good old infernal combustion engine in pure efficiency.


    As i said before i have been working with steam for years and i know alot about it, i might not be able to quote shitloads of formulas for you but i can run a steam plant and knows how it works and what its strengths and weaknesses are. if you wish to continue being a stupid american then fine be my guest. However if you have some great insight into getting the amount of efficiency out of a steam plant you claim then please do tell.


    Thinfourth (class 1 combined steam and motor unlimited chief engineers certificate holder)




    wow...a stupid american. thanks. That says a lot more about you than it does me just by the fact that you said it.

    about cwlp-


    The Lakeside Power Station is the original generating facility constructed in the mid-1930s on the shore of the utility's then-new man-made Lake Springfield. It consisted of eight coal-fired boilers and seven turbine-generators, only two of which, boilers 7 and 8 and units 6 and 7, are currently active. Unit #6 was installed in 1961; unit #7 followed in 1965. These turbines have a combined nameplate rating of 66 megawatts (MW) and a total maximum capacity of 76 MW. Each unit is designed to burn coal with a heat content of approximately 10,500 Btu per pound. The Lakeside turbines are used to meet intermediate customer load.

    In 2005, Lakeside's two generators generated 208,452 megawatt-hours (MWH) of electricity. To do this, they used 129,548 tons of coal, 70,275 gallons of oil, and 5,037 tons of seed corn costing nearly $3.26 million. The station's net fuel cost was $15.63 per MWH.


    Particulate emissions at the Lakeside Power Station are controlled by a single electrostatic precipitator. Water for the unit's once-through cooling systems is obtained from Lake Springfield and is discharged back into the Lake after cooling the units' condensers.

    Dallman Power Station

    Dallman Power Station was built just to the southwest of the Lakeside Station in 1968 to answer the increasing electric demand of a growing city. The first Dallman generator placed on line was Dallman 1, with a maximum capacity of 86 MW (80 MW nameplate rating). It was followed by a second 87 MW (80 MW nameplate rating) unit in 1972. In 1978, a third turbine-generator, with a maximum capatability of 199 MW (192 MW nameplate rating), more than doubled the power station's total generating capacity. These three coal-fired units are intended to meet customer base load.


    In 2005, Dallman's three generators used 1,130,807 tons of coal, 145,336 gallons of oil and 7,004 tons of seed corn costing $29.99 million to generate 2,084,105 MWH of electricity. The station's net fuel cost was $14.39 per MWH.

    All Dallman units are designed to burn coal with an approximate heat content of 10,500 Btu per pound. Particulate emissions from the three units are controlled by electrostatic precipitators.

    In addition, the three units are equipped with flue gas desulfurization systems (scrubbers) to control sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions. The scrubber for Dallman 3 was installed in 1980. A second scrubber, serving the two older units, was put into operation in June 2001 in response to requirements of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments.

    The three units have also been equipped with selective catalytic reduction (SCR) systems, which reduce nitrogen oxides (NOX) emissions to levels allowed by both state and federal clean air requirements. The SCRs, which cost a total of $76 million to install, were placed on line in May 2003. They operate during the "ozone season" (May through September) when NOX emissions are most likely to have an impact on atmospheric ozone levels.

    All three Dallman units use once-through condenser cooling water systems with water being obtained from Lake Springfield and discharged back into the lake.


    Diesel Generators

    CWLP also owns three 1.825 MW oil-fired diesel generators that serve as a back-up electric supply for the utility.

    In 2005, these units used a total of 4,487 gallons of diesel oil costing $7,901 to generate 55.4 MWH of electricity. The unit’s net fuel cost was $142.53 per MWH.

    Peaking Turbines

    CWLP operates three peaking generators, two that are oil-burning and one that has dual-fuel operating capabilities. These units have a combined maximum capacity of 166 MW (147 nominal rating).


    Together, in 2005, these peaking turbines used a total of 2,485,720 therms of natural gas costing $2,055,598 and 398,499 gallons of fuel oil costing $762,013 to generate 21,204 MWH of electricity. The average net fuel cost to operate these units was $132.88.


  • Rob-C 26 Jul 2006

    thinfourth said:
    Could you please explain exactly how they run the distillation plant without the normal energy loses you get with these pieces of kit



    It'll almost certainly be an ion exchange plant rather than a distillation process on a power station.

  • thinfourth 26 Jul 2006

    I am beginning to believe you have zero knowledge about this, though i shall see you i can widen your knowledge a little bit

    You say that the local power plant is hugely efficient but you also claim you see loads of steam coming from the turbines straight to atmosphere. Steam is energy so you must be wrong on one of those accounts

    You claim they use lake water in the boilers Could you please explain exactly how they run the distillation plant without the normal energy loses you get with these pieces of kit

    Now here comes the biggy please tell me how you are going to twist the rules of thermodynamics to get 80% efficiency from a steam plant that fits under the bonnet of a car.


    What i suspect you are seeing is lots of water vapour in the boiler exhaust stacks as you can only recover so much heat from the waste gases from the boilers by removing the waste heat. A side effect of this is if you go too low you get water condensing an combing with any sulphor dioxide to for acid, on a marine plant we limit the amount of heat we remove to maintain a higher temp. Now in a shoreside plant they can deal with the acids more easily so they can recover more heat therefore they end up with lower temps and as a side effect you get visible water vapour in your uptakes.

    Back to them not using condensers highly unlikely however with a shoreside plant in some places they use waste steam for heating in the surrounding areas another method is they use the waste heat recovered from the condensers to heat water that is then piped to the surrounding building and they get very cheap heating. this is becoming more fashionable as it increases the overall plant efficiency by using waste heat. They are known as CHaP Combined Heat and Power.

    Now CHaP will not work in a car as the amount of heat wasted from producing enough power to move it along is far in excess of the heat needed to keep the car warm so unless you plan on building a really big slow motorhome steam ain't ever going to beat the good old infernal combustion engine in pure efficiency.


    As i said before i have been working with steam for years and i know alot about it, i might not be able to quote shitloads of formulas for you but i can run a steam plant and knows how it works and what its strengths and weaknesses are. if you wish to continue being a stupid american then fine be my guest. However if you have some great insight into getting the amount of efficiency out of a steam plant you claim then please do tell.


    Thinfourth (class 1 combined steam and motor unlimited chief engineers certificate holder)


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