35 cents a gallon gas? How about Nuclear Powered Cars?

By | September 20, 2008

Fred Miller bought gas Thursday afternoon at a Rutter’s Farm Store in West Manchester Township . . . for 35 cents a gallon. Yes, 35 cents a gallon. And it was middle grade to boot. The sign at the Rutter’s in the 2300 block of Carlisle Road showed that gas was $3.59 a gallon for middle grade, but when it rang up, it was $0.359. Miller, of Dover Township, bought a little more than 17 gallons for $6.17. That was a big difference, he said. Todd Rutter, head of Rutter’s Dairy, one of the family of Rutter’s companies, did not say how many people got the cheap gas before the problem was corrected. He said it was enough to make a few people happy, but not enough to hurt too much. – york

Those were the days. Time to find some new fuels!

The Ford Nucleon was a nuclear-powered concept car developed by Ford Motor Company in 1958. No operational models were built. The design did not include an internal-combustion engine, rather, a vehicle was to be powered by a small nuclear reactor in the rear of the vehicle. The vehicle featured a power capsule suspended between twin booms at the rear. The capsule, which would contain radioactive core for motive power, was designed to be easily interchangeable, according to performance needs and the distances to be traveled.

The passenger compartment of the Nucleon featured a one-piece, pillar-less windshield and compound rear window, and was topped by a cantilever roof. There were air intakes at the leading edge of the roof and at the base of its supports. An extreme cab-forward style provided more protection to the driver and passengers from the reactor in the rear. Some pictures show the car with tailfins sweeping up from the rear fenders.

The drive train would be integral to the power module, and electronic torque converters would take the place of the drive-train used at the time. It was said that cars like the Nucleon would be able to travel 8000 km (5,000 miles) or more, depending on the size of the core, without recharging. Instead, at the end of the core’s life they would be taken to a charging station, which research designers envisioned as largely replacing gas stations. The car was never built and never went into production, but it remains an icon of the Atomic Age of the 1950s. – wiki

A commenter named Joel on ecogeek writes:

There’s a world of difference between radiothermal and nuclear: the first one uses spontaneous decay, the second one runs on a chain-reaction. If you can get the critical mass of the fuel down to the point that it fits in a passenger car, you have bomb-making material. Plain and simple. That’s probably the real reason we’ll never see nuclear reactors in cars.  It would be interesting to see a series hybrid with a (decay-powered) electric generator to charge the batteries. Shielding might be workable in that case, and it could use an isotope that’s easy to get anyway, like Thorium … Joel

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