Full Steam Ahead

August 5, 2008 at 6:01 am Leave a comment

In less than a fortnight, a team of Brits will attempt to tackle the Land Speed Record (LSR) for a steam powered automobile, a record that has been held for over 100 years. The British Steam Car Challenge team’s goal is not only to exceed the standing record, but to raise awareness for steam power as a viable alternative for today’s automobiles.

In 1906, Fred Marriott drove a steam powered vehicle built by the Stanley Brothers (pictured here) to an amazing speed of 127.659 MPH. The sanctioning body for international land speed records at the time was the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA). The absolute record stood until 1910 when it was beaten by a petrol powered Benz by the narrow margin of 3.5 miles per hour.

Ultimately the FIA recognized separate records for steam engine powered vehicles as opposed to those powered by internal combustion engines (ICE). By 1919 the absolute record had been set by an internal combustion engined car with a recorded speed of 150 MPH but the steam record remained untouched.

Then, in 1985, using a turbine from a failed steam powered bus project, Bob Barber made an attempt on the long standing record. At the Bonneville Salt Flats, Barber was able to complete a run with at top speed of 145.607 MPH. However, Barber was unable to complete a second attempt due to technical difficulties and is therefore not recognized by the FIA. (The FIA requires two successive runs, which are averaged to calculate the official speed.) Though Bob Barber’s attempt was considered a failure, the British Steam Car Challenge team recognizes Barber’s speed as the record to exceed.

With growing public concern about the buildup of toxic and smog producing gases produced by internal combustion engines, a trend is emerging toward more ecologically friendly technologies for both public and private means of transportation. The British Steam Car Challenge, launched in June of 1999, couples the wealth of steam knowledge gained from Victorian times onward with some of the most advanced technologies known to man. It promises to be a stepping stone in the direction of the future of transportation technologies.

With these goals in mind, the decision was made to create a vehicle that would set a new land speed record, incorporating new technologies to bring excitement to the arena of ecologically friendly technologies. In the process of setting the land speed record it is hoped that additional attention to green vehicle technologies will be generated.

Though the initial goal is to get into the record books, the most enduring part begins once the LSR has been set. An innovative boiler design, high performance turbine, aerodynamically slippery shape and clean burning fuel all combine to make this vehicle an extremely technologically and ecologically advanced project as well as providing a wealth of information that will go towards the ongoing education of students and the public – promoting education and awareness of clean burning fuels and ecologically sound technologies to young engineers around the world.

Once the record has been set, the car is eventually to be entrusted to Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, the project patron, and will be on loan to the Motor Museum Trust at Beaulieu. It is hoped that there the car will continue to benefit public awareness of ecologically friendly technologies and the efforts put forth by the team and its sponsors.

By briansrapier

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Entry filed under: Alternative Fuels, Biofuels, Contest, Emerging Technologies, Energy, Environment, Informational, Research, Steam. Tags: , , , , .

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