Gas to steam conversion


#1

Could I have a cam made to open the intake valves every time the piston is going down and open the exhaust valve every time the piston comes up eliminating the compression stoke. Then pull off the carburetor and with a small propane or natural gas powered boiler apply the same amount of pressure as the compression for that engine to spin the crankshaft. Could this work to run the car or truck ?


#2

The answer is why.


#3

So you have access to an external energy source cheaper than gasoline that makes this endeavor economical? The last time I looked, natural gas and propane prices followed petroleum cost increases like a dog follows his master. Until people produce their own energy any conversion that uses an energy source from the major energy companies is not worth it.
This is true for the hydrogen scam as well, let alone natural gas and propane.


#4

It Was just a thought, the city of Boise has natural gas city buses because it is cheaper than gas. Also the Stanly steamer seemed to work.


#5

Many things are possible, but not all make sense. A non-condensing steam engine has a very low efficiency, seldom exceeding 5-8%. A good internal combustion engine has an efficiency as high as 38% for a typical diesel and about 30% for a gasoline engine.

If your propane is FREE or priced at 1/8 of the cost of gasoline, it would be cost effective.

However, why not burn the natural gas or propane DIRECTLY in the engine and get the same efficiency as the gasoline engine, about 8 times higher than using the steam cycle.

If you have ever wondered why there are no more STEAM locomotives, and they are all diesels, now you know why.


#6

The Stanley Steamer isn’t made any more. There’s a reason for that.

Do you really want to sit in your car for half an hour waiting for the water to boil?


#7

Actually the reasons that stream cars (like the Stanley’s) disappeared are complex. There is no simple “ICE was superior technology” thing. In fact, some of it had to do with an outbreak of foot & mouth disease among livestock. A bit more of it had to do with the outbreak of WWI. The movement of technology in history is very complicated.

That said, I’m not implying that the OP would be successful in attempting such a thing. I don’t even know what the idea is, so certainly couldn’t comment on it.


#8

What you’re proposing is more like the ‘air powered’ vehicles, basically an air compressor run in reverse. But add all the complications (and dangers) of generating high pressure steam…sure it’s ‘possible’, but not what I’d call ‘practical’.


#9

Converting a ICE to create steam is probably the MOST inefficient way to create steam. There are much easier and cheaper ways to do it.


#10

The OP does not want to make steam with the engine, he said he would use an external boiler for that. He wants to use it to convert steam energy into mechanical energy.

It is possivle to make this conversion and I have seen it done to 2-stroke engines and other small engines. I’m not sure how well the intake system would hold up to high pressure steam though. The steam pressures you will need will be much higher than the inake manifold was ever designed for. You can have a machine shop make the cam for you, but you will have to figure out the optimum valve timing to come up with the cam profile.


#11

Cigroller: Perhaps, but the main reason we don’t have steam-powered cars is because ICE is superior. Otherwise, once the war was over and foot-and-mouth was controlled, they’d have made a comeback.


#12

Shadowfax, I’d feel better if I knew why we are supposed to assume that. Those kinds of assumptions, when boiled down to what’s supposed to make them true, is that its ultimately markets that always end up giving the world the best stuff possible. But the logic & reasoning is always based in an “in principle” world as told in economics textbooks. It doesn’t come from an actual practical world of actual people doing stuff.

Like I said, the movement of technology through history is very complex. Even the simple statement “ICE is superior” is loaded. Superior to what on what criteria? Even moreso, how would you know? If the central business of the auto industry had accidentally become steam rather than ICE, how would you know what things would be like now? The same can be said of electric. History is not some thing where all of the horses are always in the race. ICE alternatives were ignored after about the 20s but it wasn’t b/c of their technical superiority.

There are just lots of reasons that tech goes the way it does. Market & engineering considerations are obviously relevant. But they are only a small part of what drives technology through history.


#13

Probably not. Steam pistons and cylinders are different than the V-8 configuration and the other enginesas well. Pistons and rings would have to be changed. It would be easier to just insert the new engine, furnace and fuel tank. Cunbustion is moved eo an external source, why not just run gaseous fuels? Nuclear waste would work as a fuel but you would have to make sure the water tank doesn’t run out.


#14

Cigroller: Steam powered vehicles require steam. Steam requires that you heat water. You therefore have a choice: Keep the water constantly heated, thus wasting fuel, or waste time waiting for the water to heat up when you go to start the car. ICE is inherently superior because it’s instant-on. You turn the key, and you can go immediately, without having to let the car idle all night to keep it ready to go immediately. Have you ever watched someone start a steam engine? I have. It takes forever.

Even more telling is that even in industries where running the steam engine all the time to keep the water hot would make sense, like railroads, they’ve transitioned from steam to ICE. That’s why locomotives are diesel-electric now. If steam really were better than ICE (which I really do hope you are not trying to argue) then modern locomotives would still be running on steam.

To be blunt, at this point you’re not far off of someone arguing that a horse and buggy is not necessarily inferior to a car. While they might be right in certain, very limited situations, in general a car gets you there faster, cheaper, and in greater comfort.

In the same vein, while I’m sure you could think of some fringe situation which would be about 5 or 6 standard deviations off of average wherein a steam car would be better than an ICE car (though I note that you have not as yet done so) I highly doubt you could make a convincing argument that cars should go back to steam.

I agree with you that markets don’t always give people the best product - see VHS vs Beta. But I do think markets tend to deliver broad technologies that people want - see home-video-recorders. People wanted ICE, not steam, and they wanted ICE for the reasons I listed above.


#15

Shadow, all I said initially is that the reasons that steam cars disappeared are quite complex. I never said anyone should bring back the steam car. Heck, I didn’t even say that on the whole ICE or steam are better. I just said that steam didn’t disappear because of some kind of clear engineering superiority. One might be able to hang around right now - almost a century later - and demonstrate that. (But even then it would have to be only an in principle argument). But a century ago when the cars on the roads were ICE, steam, and electric mixed there was no clear technologically superior choice.

If you would like to continue with an oversimplified, Whiggish vision of the history of technology (where “people wanted ICE, not steam” which is a meaningless statement) then you may. But if you go back an do real history you will find that the reasons history went the way it did don’t look like your reasoning in the above. Its simply historically inaccurate.

So perhaps we are just talking about different things. So I’ll just try to clarify then. My point would not be that ICE wasn’t the best thing in the long run. I don’t have the engineering saavy to say so. My point would instead be that whatever technical superiority it may or may not have - looking back from here to there - isn’t the reason that steam disappeared.


#16

There already is a ‘steam engine’ in my car but it’s used backwards, with a cold boiler and a hot condenser, the ICE drives the backwards steam engine to pump heat from the cold boiler inside the car to the hot condenser in front of the radiator, thereby keeping me nice and cool during those hot summer months.
OK, it’s not technically steam but no one ever said that the working fluid in a closed Rankine cycle engine has to be water.


#17

While there are certainly multiple factors that go into the demise of anything, I maintain that the primary reason steam cars went away was because of the technological superiority of the ICE:

http://www.stanleymotorcarriage.com/GeneralTechnical/GeneralInfo.htm

“With the introduction of the electric starter on the 1912 Cadillac the internal combustion engine became a snap to start and the twenty-minute firing-up wait of the steam car became a real disadvantage. Henry’s Model T soon became available for one quarter the price of a Stanley and with the offerings of General Motors and Chrysler the end of the steam car was in sight.”

And here’s an interesting quote from Abner Doble, who had his own steam-powered car company in the same era as Stanley, in remarks he made in 1916 :

“Immediately after the early-day popularity of the steam-car the internal-combustion engine began to be favored by engineers. With the introduction of the long-stroke high-speed engine in Europe the steam-car fell behind rapidly in the march of progress. I do not wish to convey the impression that motor-vehicle builders erred in selecting the gasoline engine. The market demanded cars and more cars, and the makers chose the only practical powerplant available. No one wanted a vehicle that emptied a horse-trough every twenty miles. Very few drivers were equal to the task of properly feeding the boiler. The idea of spending all the way from a quarter of an hour to an hour and a half in starting soon lost its relish.”

http://www.catskillarchive.com/rrextra/automo.Html


#18

So I’ll just try to clarify then. My point would not be that ICE wasn’t the best thing in the long run. I don’t have the engineering saavy to say so. My point would instead be that whatever technical superiority it may or may not have - looking back from here to there - isn’t the reason that steam disappeared.

Then what is the reason?

Shadowfax is right.


#19

“I maintain that the primary reason steam cars went away was because of the technological superiority of the ICE”

Right. Fine. That’s what I said. Have at it.

A while back (matter of months or more) some crackpot posted the results of his “research” on how distracted the brain gets when having to process spoken language. It was supposed to be some anti-mobile phone in cars sort of thing.

I watched you very elegantly and adeptly produce a great critique of that research. But now on a point of history you’re going to dig up a couple of quotes from the internet and use those to establish a claim about large-scale technological change? You have a better critical mind than that - I’ve seen it.

Anyway, I’m not sure what those things are supposed to establish. If maybe its that they both supposedly come from the “steam” people themselves I’ll bet I can dig up some quotes from people in the electrical industry proclaiming that Edison “invented” the light bulb too. (I surely hope you don’t buy that one).

Anyway, yes. By the teens the story had shifted quite a bit. Go back to the end of the 19th century and first decade of the 20th. You would have to dig it all out. You have to find all of the different kinds of people into cars - the makers, the users, the sellers, etc. You have to figure out what a “car” was to them. You then have to be able to lodge that in the entire surrounding “technological system” that surrounds the thing under question and you have to worry about its development as well. You then have to worry too about the vagaries of history (weird things like hoof & mouth disease). The tapestry is complex. It takes a lot more than a couple of random internet bits via a google search.

Doble, btw, yes was in the steam business. He was also a mess - mostly as a businessman, but a mess nonetheless. He was not an historian, and was just as capable at rationally reconstructing the past as is anyone else.


#20

Thanks for clarifying piter. I’m going to sleep so much better now that I know that the world is perfect enough to only deliver to history the best of the best of the best - and then only the basis that it is the best.