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Thursday, December 29, 2005


BMW's Turbosteamer

Here's an interesting bit of automotive technology in the news. When I was a kid, I once had a crazy idea to take the heat from the exhaust of an engine and use it to drive a steam engine. Free power from exhaust heat sounded like a good idea, but since it seems pretty obvious and nobody had done it to my knowledge, I figured there had to be some problem and I kind of forgot about the idea.

Turns out, the idea wasn't so crazy after all. BMW has built a device they call the
Turbosteamer, which is a steam engine built into a car's exhaust system. The results were very impressive - more horsepower, more torque, more gas mileage, more thermal efficiency. The only downside was that it added a little bit of weight. Well, and I suppose it wouldn't work too well on a turbocharged engine since they are already using the heat from the exhaust gas. While it won't work with a conventional turbo, it could work with a hybrid gas-electric drivetrain. That might produce some very interesting results when it comes to fuel economy - not to mention have the techie appeal of having a car driven by three different kinds of motors at once.

There's a couple more pictures from the BMW press release making their way around the Internet. From the looks of things, it may actually be possible to pull one off a junkyard car once they show up in junkards and slap them on cars that never had a Turbosteamer. Just take the expansion unit off a BMW and attach it to the crank pulley of another engine with a Gilmer style drive belt, and add the necessary heat exchangers. Probably a lot of fabrication but not any more work than some attempts at adding junkyard superchargers.

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