At the beginning of the 1900s, the Doble Steam Motors Company built steam cars. Their engineers solved many of the problems steam cars had until then by using superheated steam and a condenser to recirculate the steam instead of just expelling it as exhaust.
Their cars ran almost completely silently and made 1000 (yes, a thousand) ft-lbs of torque.
Here's a video with Jay Leno where he explains the inner workings of one in more detail and drives it around. Here's a diagram explaining how they work, and for flavor, a picture of thorium salt crystals
The way I'm thinking it'd work is
- you'd have a tiny version of the thorium reactor "bulb" circulate molten salt into a heat exchanger (like the furnace in the Doble)...
- ...to create superheated steam...
- ... then use that to drive a steam engine or turbine...
- ... hooked directly to the back wheels (with that much torque, you don't need a gear box)...
- ... then recirculate the steam thru a condenser to turn it back into water.
I can think of several pros and one big con:
- Your fuel is literally glowy blue-green crystals.
- Silent running.
- Nuclear-powered AND steam powered.
- Tons of torque.
- No exhaust pollution — you'd run your car until the thorium salt was expended then dispose the waste at a processing facility.
- Thorium has 1000s of times the energy density of fossil fuels. You could run your car for months on a single "tank."
- Thorium is about as abundant as lead in the ground, so fuel cost wouldn't be unreasonable.
Is it practical to combine this "advanced" retro steam technology with a mini liquid thorium salt reactor?