July 2012 steam stuff

July 8-13 I was out to Vermont for a real steam car tour, the Eastern Invitational.  I did not have a steam car that ran because I have only modern steam cars and it is a sensitive issue.  There were mostly Stanleys and some Whites and one Lane out there driving about 80 miles a day on back country roads.  Now I am working on putting together a short book on the White steam automobile based on Dick Hempel’s newsletters and Roy Ferrier’s glossy photos of White autos.  In the meantime I am finding all of the photos and blueprints for the Yuba Tractor steam project from about 1950 and putting them together with an essay by Marcus Lothrop on the history and purpose of that project.

Meanwhile, I have discovered two organizations that are trying to compress air and then spray water into it for isothermal compression the purpose of which is to store electrical energy.  As we all know, if air is compressed, stored, and then used to power an air motor, only about 20% of the original energy is recovered.  That is because too much heat is generated in the compression process.  The two organizations are LightSail in Berkeley and SustainX out in New Hampshire.  Both organizations have venture capital money by concerned and green type people, are near an ocean, and are top heavy with PhD’s on the staff.  I was going to write them and say something about recipe for disaster but am too busy with my quotidian tasks to do so.  They will both need a steam engine as an expander because we are the only people who know how to make variable valve timing mechanisms and understand thermodynamics.  I am waiting patiently for these two organizations to contact me asking for my opinion.   Tom Kimmel

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