We love going fast and we love pushing the limits to see what our vehicles are capable of. The Bonneville Salt Flats provide a perfect setting for speed junkies of all kind to come and find out what they are capable of achieving. This dry lake bed has been dominated in recent times by the internal combustion engine and even jet power, but an older form of powering four wheels is about to take center stage once again.
The U.S. Land Steam Record Team will be attempting to beat the current record in their newest steam powered vehicle. In 2009, Team Inspiration from Great Britain broke the 1985 steam record by hitting 148.308 mph. The previous official FIA record of 127mph was set in 1906 by American, Fred Marriott, driving a Stanley steamer at Daytona Beach.
Driver and car designer, Chuk Williams, in conjunction with Cyclone Power Technologies will be the latest steam pioneers when they attempt the record breaking run in August 2011. The state of the art streamline design is projected to hit a top speed north of 200 mph, which would undoubtedly seal its position in the history books. We look forward to reporting more on the attempt once the team makes it to Bonneville.
Hit the jump for more details on the U.S. Land Steam Record Team
Inside of Chuk’s home garage sits the unfinished frame of the Land Speed Record car. It uses square steel tubing to create a box frame for the mechanical components and will eventually be covered with a slipstream designed body. The dimensions of the vehicle have been optimized in order to fit only the essential parts to make it run and to hold Chuk in the driver’s seat. The box frame measures 32 inches wide by 21 feet long and 32 inches in height. A tail fin in the back will provide some directional stability at high speeds and that is not taken into account with the 32 inch height. The smooth body will give this future record holder a drag coefficient of 0.2.
Underneath the sleek exterior will be a compartment behind the front wheels for the batteries. Behind that is the large water tank providing the most important component of steam engine. Next in line comes the cockpit, which provides just enough room for Chuk to steer and control the car. The custom made steering rack allows the wheels to only turn 5 degrees in either direction providing a measure of safety for high speed runs. The LSR vehicle utilizes a mid-engine design with the Cyclone Power engine sitting behind the driver’s head and in front of the rear axle. This simplified engine design will use a belt drive to send the power to the rear wheels.
Cyclone Power Technologies has been developing their most current engine design for several years and has big plans for its future. A unique part of this LSR build is that the engine was adapted for the record car and not made exclusively for it. The general design of their Mark V engine is planning on finding its way under the hood of a standard automobile in the near future. These motors are known as Rankine Cycle heat regenerative external combustion engines. This sounds complicated, but by heating and cooling water in a closed loop, the engine creates mechanical energy. These engines are extremely efficient due to utilization of many different fuel types, no motor oil, and minimal excess parts that could potentially fail.
The process starts out with fuel being injected into a centrifugal combustion chamber towards the top of the engine. Just like any other engine, a spark then ignites the fuel mixture. Once ignited the flame spins around heat coils that start the rest of the reactions. Advanced control and thermocouples ensure the duration and temperature within the chamber. As the coils become heated, water inside then begins to reach temperatures in excess of 1,100 degrees. The steam is then taken through a series of pipes to the six radial-configured cylinders. The intense pressure of 3,200 psi forces the pistons into motion. The final step in power creating is the turning of the crankshaft below the piston chamber. This system has no need for a transmission and Chuk’s drive belt will be connected directly.
The excess steam is what escapes through the exhaust ports and enters into a condensing unit. Blower fans help speed the process, but water is condensed and held in a chamber awaiting use once again. A similar process is used to reclaim excess heat at the top of the engine. This heat exchanger helps to pre-heat the fuel mixture and also cool the exhaust temperatures as they exit. The version of the engine being used in the LSR vehicle uses all these basic principles, but has been increased in size to make extra power for the run. This is done by increasing the amount of heat coils in the combustion chamber. The Mark V engine uses 12 coils, but the LSR engine will have 24.