The first possibility is to make steam with the coal using an on board steam boiler. Then use the steam to power a steam engine or turbine to drive the car.
The famous 1902 Stanley Steamer automobile set a speed record of 127 mph. But, they used kerosene to make the steam. Just before the First World War, the Dobie brothers made steam powered cars in California. Their car accelerated faster than the Model T Ford. But, they used kerosene as fuel.
California. Their car accelerated faster than the Model T Ford. But, they used kerosene as fuel.
This summer the Stanley Steamer speed record is likely to be smashed by a British built steam car. They expect speeds approaching 200 mph using LPG as fuel to make steam to power a 360 hp turbine. Wow, times have changed.
The problem with using coal as a vehicle boiler fuel is that it takes too much time to get the fire going. Plus, it is difficult to control the flow of coal into the firebox. It also takes a long time for the fire to burn out after you park the car. Then you have to get rid of the ash. A lot of inconvenient labor is involved.
Adding pollution controls on each and every vehicle makes this an unlikely answer.
The second possibility, and my favorite, is to make electricity with the coal and drive a plug in electric car. The coal would be used to make electricity at a clean burning coal fired electric generating station. We have proven technology for this and we have plenty of coal here.
The car would need an on board battery, like the new Chevy Volt will have. The battery could be charged by plugging it in at home and at outlets at work or in shopping center parking lots. Swipe your credit card and buy some energy for your car while you shop.
In my dream of the future, expressways would have a power track or maybe a slot like model slot race cars use, to provide power and a battery charge while you drive longer distances. The battery would provide power for local city street driving.
I hope that there will be better technologies for supplying electric power to a moving car than were used with trolley cars. Making this plan work would require major investments in infrastructure to make and distribute the electrical power.
The third possibility is to convert the carbon from coal into a liquid fuel to replace gasoline and diesel fuel. This is a known technology but is currently being held back in the USA by regulatory constraints.
USA by regulatory constraints.
Coal is first converted into a synthetic gas. Then it is recombined with hydrogen from steam in a chemical plant to make a liquid fuel called synthetic fuel or synfuel.
South Africa, India and China are expected to be very large producers of synfuel. They will use it in place of petroleum based gasoline, jet fuel and diesel fuel.
China are expected to be very large producers of synfuel. They will use it in place of petroleum based gasoline, jet fuel and diesel fuel.
This technology will be used around the world even if environmental concerns keep it from full production use here.
One advantage of synfuel is that no new infrastructure is need after the production plants are built. Also, synfuels closely match existing fuel so no changes are need in existing vehicle engines.
We have coal so we should use it starting now.
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