Steam and Electric Autos

August 14, 1968

Report Outline
Revival of Steam and Electric Vehicles
Technical Aspects of Electric Propulsion
Transportation Policy in Cities of Future

Revival of Steam and Electric Vehicles

Search for Modern Versions of Long-Gone Cars

When the electric broughams and Stanley Steamers of half a century ago tooled off into apparent oblivion, they were mourned by few and in time scarcely remembered. The internal combustion engine, more powerful than electric and less cumbersome than steam, had forced all competitors off the streets and highways never to return—or so it seemed until recently.

Today more money and time are being expended to develop practical electrics and steamers than at any time since the heyday of those vehicles in the years before World War I. Why? Air pollution and traffic congestion in American cities have set in motion a search for a substitute for the gasoline engine. The U. S. Public Health Service estimates that up to two-thirds of all pollutants released into the atmosphere come from the gasoline engines that propel the country's 99 million motor vehicles. Electric cars emit virtually none of these pollutants, steam cars relatively few.

The potentialities of electricity or steam as a substitute for gasoline as a motor vehicle propellant have been attested by scientists in learned journals, before congressional committees, and elsewhere. Detroit has hesitantly started testing some laboratory-built cars. General Motors, Ford and American Motors all are working on electric cars for testing. And Ford announced March 18, 1968, that it had entered into an agreement with Thermo Electron Corp. of Waltham, Mass., for development of low-power steam engines for small boats or golf carts—or possibly steam automobiles. General Motors and American Motors will say only that they are “investigating” steam. Life magazine observed on May 10: “So far, Detroit—whose commitment to the internal-combustion engine runs to billions in manufacturing facilities—has been mainly unenthusiastic.”

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