DailyDirt: Cars You Can't Buy (Yet?)

from the urls-we-dig-up dept

There are plenty of cool cars that are just too expensive for most people to even think about buying, but sometimes the really cool cars are the ones that aren't even quite ready to be sold (Tesla SUV, anyone?). Gull wing doors and exotic metal alloys are usually the key parts of concept vehicles and prototype cars. Here are just a couple cars you might have seen and a prediction of what we'll all be driving in the next few decades. If you'd like to read more awesome and interesting stuff, check out this unrelated (but not entirely random!) Techdirt post via StumbleUpon.

Filed Under: cars, electric vehicles, hybrid, hydrogen, nuclear-powered, nucleon, transportation, vehicles, xl1
Companies: ford, shell, vw

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  1. identicon
    Erbo, 23 Oct 2013 @ 11:20am

    Nuclear energy and cars

    There's a better way to use nuclear energy to (indirectly) run cars, that requires no new technology and has no risk of a car wreck turning into a radioactive disaster...and has fewer risks of radioactive disasters altogether.

    The solution lies in the use of liquid fluoride thorium reactors (LFTRs), a technology developed in the 1960s at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. It uses thorium for fuel, rather than uranium, and does not produce weaponizable byproducts. It runs at normal atmospheric pressure, with the fuel embedded in the coolant. The fuel/coolant mixture is held in the reactor by an actively-cooled freeze plug, so, if power is lost, the plug melts and the fuel/coolant drains out into safe storage areas where it cools and solidifies. (They tested these safety mechanisms at Oak Ridge, too, by literally turning off the power and going home for the weekend!) A Fukushima-type accident is utterly impossible with this design.

    The reactor's normal operating temperature is around 600 degrees, which carries two advantages. First, it doesn't need a big source of water for cooling; it can use air-cooled turbines. Second, the reactor's process heat can be used directly, without conversion into electricity, to drive the synthesis of petroleum from any convenient carbon source using the Fischer-Tropsch process (which was being used by the Germans in World War II). So, for instance, you could extract the thorium from coal (which is a natural impurity, and a pollutant that existing coal-burning power plants have to deal with), use that to run LFTRs, and convert the remaining coal into synthetic petroleum that would run existing cars, plus generate electricity (including sufficient electricity to crack water for hydrogen to power cars that way, if you're so inclined). This would allow us to keep from importing foreign oil, with all the geopolitical implications associated with that, and it would even reduce carbon emissions, since we would be "burning" coal as oil, not burning both coal and oil.

    As I said, no technological breakthroughs are required. All we lack is the political will to engineer the existing technology for effective commercial use, and start building the reactors.

    For more information on LFTRs and associated technology, this is a good place to start.

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