During the Atomic Age, it seemed as though there were no ceiling to the possibilities that atomic energy offered. From computers to homes to automobiles like the Ford Nucleon (above), engineers thought in integrating nuclear technology into every device conceivable. Well its happening again, as a Connecticut-based company has announced its intentions to build an EV powered by radioactive thorium.
Laser Power Systems says that thorium, when heated by an external source, itself gives off considerable heat. Thorium can be used to power a laser to superheat water into steam, turning minature turbines that create electricity to drive the car. In fact, according to researchers, a single gram (1g) of thorium holds the equivalent energy to 7,500 (!) gallons of gasoline, yet a gram of thorium costs just 25 cents. A500 poundgenerating unit producing 250 MW of energy should be small enough to fit under the hood of a small car, and is about the same weight as current car engines.
Of course, there is a catch (isn’t there always?) Thorium is radioactive, although not overly so. LPS claims that a thin shielding of aluminum tinfoil would be enough to block the radiation, and as it turns out, theUnited Statessits on one of the world’s largest supplies of the rare earth element. Unfortunately, LPS is still working on a way to integrate both the thorium-laser, and the turbine-generating unit, into a car.
They’re basically starting from scratch here, but there is some serious promise in the prospect. LPS claims that in theory, such a vehicle would never need to be refueled, would produce zero emissions, and never require an oil change. Too good to be true…or the future of driving?
Source: Wards Auto
Chris DeMorro is a writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs. You can read about his slow descent into madness at Sublime Burnout or follow his non-nonsensical ramblings on Twitter @harshcougar.