Back in the very early days of automobiling, steam cars outnumbered other forms of propulsion such as gasoline or electricity. In the U.S. in 1902 for example, 485 of 909 new car registrations were steamers and models such as the Toledo Steam Carriage, the Vapomobile, the Locomobile Runabout and the Stanley Steamer enjoyed their heyday.
The era of the steam car came to an end thanks to the adoption of the electric starter, which eliminated the need for risky hand cranking to start gasoline-powered cars. The introduction of assembly-line mass production by Henry Ford, which hugely reduced the cost of owning a conventional automobile, also played a role in the steam car’s demise as the Model T was both cheap and reliable.
Steam cars never went entirely extinct, however, and models have popped up here and there with companies such as Saab, Pelland and Enginion toying with steam car concepts.
Now, Cyclone Power Technologies, a developer of a modern, efficient steam engine is attempting to once again raise the profile of steam power. The company issued a press release saying they’re in the process of attempting to break the land speed record for a steam powered car. To accomplish this goal, they’ve joined forces with Bonneville champions George Poteet and Ronald Main and will use a car design based on their state-of-the-art streamliner Speed Demon, which has hit 462 mph on the salt flats.
The Cyclone team has a bit more modest speed in its sights. The current steam-powered world record is 148 mph set by a British team in 2009. The Cyclone vehicle will be powered by an advanced Cyclone Engine which, the company says, can one day be placed in modern clean-emission, all-fuel production cars and trucks.
The Cyclone engine is an all-fuel, clean-tech external combustion engine designed to achieve high thermal efficiencies through a compact heat-regenerative process, and to run on virtually any fuel — including bio-diesels, syngas or solar — while minimizing the release of greenhouse gases.