Homemade boiler for steam powered vehicle?

Help Support HMEM:

rhambus

Member
Joined
Sep 15, 2013
Messages
11
Reaction score
0
I am new to the steam power game and am interested in building a steam powered vehicle. My current idea is to use a golf cart chassis, and use a 1hp steam engine from Mike Brown or such to run an alternator that would charge the golf cart batteries. So, basically, a "hybrid" steam powered vehicle (this is purely for fun, not for any real use). I would have been happy to buy a boiler, but it seems like they are all very expensive. I am therefore considering building a monotube boiler like the Lynx Steam boiler (seen here: [ame]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKaIofi3bGc[/ame]) , except fueling it with propane instead of wood or the like. Is this crazy? The reason I ask is that I have not seen any of these boilers attached to a vehicle. I mean, we are not talking a fast vehicle here - several miles an hour max - but is there some safety or engineering reason this hasn't been done? I would appreciate any advice.
 

Tin Falcon

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 9, 2007
Messages
7,212
Reaction score
769
I am no expert or certified engineer. So others more qualified may step in.


but is there some safety or engineering reason this hasn't been done?
First of all it has been done . The stanley steam car used a monotube boiler . It does work. However steam is an inherently inefficient way to generate electricity at this level and scale. This is why it is not common practice.
You would be far better off running a small IC engine to a generator. Even at that the engine is about 35% eficient and a generator about 60% so you end up with 21% efficiency. Now add the weight of the engine generator and a propane tank to the golf cart and you are using energy to cart around this extra baggage.

So if you want to build a steam powered or steam electric powered golf cart for fun and the that is cool factor fine. but if you are using it to save the shoe leather and help ease the discomfort of old legs. stick to charging the batteries from the wall.

This could be cool to drive around steam and car shows but you may find it to be a pain in the wallet area.

Guys have built cool model steam boats but it is for fun and one of things that makes it doable is one can of use scounged and free wood for fuel.

Please I hope you do not feel like I am squashing a dream . It is a cool idea.
It would be fun to see such a machines drive around a steam show especially if it looks old , steam punk, or Victorian in design. But do not expect it to solve any energy crisis issues or have a green carbon friendly foot print.

My take my opinion hope it helps you gain perspective.
Tin
 

lennardhme

Well-Known Member
Joined
May 25, 2009
Messages
174
Reaction score
36
Location
Narracan. Australia
Tin is dead right - steam power for fun.
I've been building a steam powered vehicle on a scrounging basis [ as bits come to hand ] for a couple of years now, based on a tandem cycle frame. Using a vertical boiler as I need one for my wifes 7.25 g De Winton loco [ a more immediate project ] which requires rego, so getting 2 made from the same approvals.
That is something you may need to consider, public running will require boiler certs in most places.
Good luck with the idea.
 

rhambus

Member
Joined
Sep 15, 2013
Messages
11
Reaction score
0
Boiler certification? Is that for me or for the boiler? I can't imagine any boiler I would make would be certifiable (I mean, I am just some guy), even though I plan to make it as safe as is practical to do so, so I do not die or need skin grafts. I probably would not take this on the public roads anywhere but my neighborhood, anyway.

I also understand that this is utterly impractical and purely for fun. That's part of the reason I only want to run 1hp, because I suspect a boiler that would provide more power than that would be too big and/or dangerous. It seems like monotube is the way to go for a beginner, but I need to learn up a bit because I suspect that with the help of a computer like an Arduino I could automate some of the controls (unless that can all be done mechanically, which does not appear to be the case.

I have seen some sites where people seem to be sort of scared of propane as a fuel for a boiler, but I feel like it's a safer choice since you can turn it off and have the heat source instantly gone (aside from residual heat, of course). In fact, I feel like automating this can't be that difficult. I have been lurking around for a while but I haven't seen a straight how-to kind of guide for this sort of project. Any suggestions of threads I should check out?
 

Tin Falcon

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 9, 2007
Messages
7,212
Reaction score
769
The boiler cert would in fact be for the boiler. Generaly once a year inspection required. Since it is in a motor vehicle it may be exempt or under a different set of laws.

Boiler codes vary from state to state so you need to look up the boiler code for your state.
Mono tube or flash steam boilers are generally safer as they contain little steam in comparison to a tank style boiler.
Also I would think runy an alternator/generator as a lod would make things easier, as you will have relativly contant load and rpm as aposed to varied load aceleration in a direct drive system.
Tin
 

Mechanicboy

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 10, 2013
Messages
704
Reaction score
229
The stanley steam car used a monotube boiler .
This is not correct, the Stanley steam car used the compact multitubular boiler. The Doble steam car had the monotube boiler.

Do not play with life if the boiler is not testet and certificed by a certified boiler inspector.
 

Tinkerer58

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 12, 2009
Messages
142
Reaction score
27
My 2 bobs worth, if your making a boiler best to get it certified specially for that size. Even the little boilers for small oscilating engines can do a lot of damage to your body if it blows, yes I know the little ones don't need certifying but when you're taking it out in public and of a substantial size, it blows up when some little curious kid wants a close look at your contraption then you're in big trouble.
In Ozz if you are running a steam vehicle at a rally or even small stationary engines you need to be insured, if not, no rally, and for good reason.
 

rhambus

Member
Joined
Sep 15, 2013
Messages
11
Reaction score
0
I looked up the process (thanks, sticky post author!) and it actually is not too bad in North Carolina. For a monotube boiler I don't think I can put on a sight glass or fusible plug, which it asks for, but hopefully the inspector would know and understand that.

Any reason I could not use a water heater burner and assembly for this build? Seems like it would have a bunch of the necessary circuitry already.
 

GYoung

Member
Joined
Mar 29, 2012
Messages
10
Reaction score
1
I've gone a route for a boiler that you may be interested in. There are steam cleaners used for jewelry cleaning that would provide adequate steam to power your 1hp engine. Everything you need comes with the cleaner; water level gauge, pressure relief valve, pressure gauge, fill and blow down valves as well as various electrical components. They heat like a domestic electric hot water heater with a screw in element controlled by a rheostat and thermo probe. You can remove the element and probe by just unscrewing it, or leave it in to plug the hole.
Use a Coleman type LP stove burner in its place controlled manually or electronically. Of course you would need to remove the existing metal shroud (16" cube) since it doesn't have a vent for a gas heater.
Oh yea, forgot to mention that they come with a factory pressure test certificate which is valid but might need yearly retesting.
They are not too cheap- new. I got mine through Ebay -used- for $350. With all the extras -gauges, valves and Certification, it is definitely worth the price.
I have not converted mine to LP yet, but that would offer faster heating / steaming than the electric. Controls can be manual or electronic depending on how elaborate you want to go and stay below the certified use pressure. My steam cleaner outputs enough steam to power my 2-hp horizontal steam engine with no problems.
Gene

PS - McCulloch sells a small steam cleaner for domestic use that might work as well for a smaller engine.
 

rhambus

Member
Joined
Sep 15, 2013
Messages
11
Reaction score
0
OK, GYoung, you rule. That is a great idea and I will investigate that.

Tin Falcon, with regard to the idea that running an alternator would make an easier load, that's exactly what I was thinking. While it would be cooler to have it be all mechanical linkages, on the scale I am talking about I think it makes more sense to run the boiler and steam engine under constant load and let the batteries do the accelerating and decelerating. Plus, energy would not be wasted when I am going slow or stopping. Instead of building my boiler, I could spend my time making the vehicle cooler.
 

rhambus

Member
Joined
Sep 15, 2013
Messages
11
Reaction score
0
I've gone a route for a boiler that you may be interested in. There are steam cleaners used for jewelry cleaning that would provide adequate steam to power your 1hp engine. Everything you need comes with the cleaner; water level gauge, pressure relief valve, pressure gauge, fill and blow down valves as well as various electrical components. They heat like a domestic electric hot water heater with a screw in element controlled by a rheostat and thermo probe. You can remove the element and probe by just unscrewing it, or leave it in to plug the hole.
Use a Coleman type LP stove burner in its place controlled manually or electronically. Of course you would need to remove the existing metal shroud (16" cube) since it doesn't have a vent for a gas heater.
Oh yea, forgot to mention that they come with a factory pressure test certificate which is valid but might need yearly retesting.
They are not too cheap- new. I got mine through Ebay -used- for $350. With all the extras -gauges, valves and Certification, it is definitely worth the price.
I have not converted mine to LP yet, but that would offer faster heating / steaming than the electric. Controls can be manual or electronic depending on how elaborate you want to go and stay below the certified use pressure. My steam cleaner outputs enough steam to power my 2-hp horizontal steam engine with no problems.
Gene

PS - McCulloch sells a small steam cleaner for domestic use that might work as well for a smaller engine.
Gyoung,

I have been looking into steam cleaners. I may be able to get a 1.4 gallon model. What pressure do you run yours at to run your 2hp engine? The one I am looking at has a gauge that goes up to 100 psi - I don't know the actual max of the pressure vessel.
 

skyline1

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 6, 2012
Messages
297
Reaction score
60
Hi Guys

A friend of mine from northern Ireland did build a steam "carriage" of this nature.

It used a fairly conventional "2" x 2" twin cylinder steam engine driving through chain drive to the rear wheels

The Boiler was a converted domestic central heating boiler, which is basically a monotube flash steam plant but regulated to make hot water not steam

It was fired with propane gas and could quite easily haul it's 17Kg "fuel tank" around

The problem was water!
it guzzled about ten gallons to the mile (possibly more)

It was not slow either.

I was privileged to ride in this "steam chariot" and it can do about 30 M.P.H in near silence save a gentle shuff, shuff , shuff.


I don't know about the boiler regs in the U.S. but it is possible to build one !

Regards Mark
 

Latest posts

Top