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Write A Review. Adopt A Car. Become A Donor. Become A Volunteer. The internal combustion engine was in its infancy, whereas steam power was well established. Electric powered cars were becoming available but suffered from their inability to travel longer distances. The majority of steam powered car manufacturers from this period were from the United States.
The more notable of these were Clark from to , Locomobile from to when it switched to gasoline engines, and Stanley from to Of all the new manufacturers from the s, only four continued to make steam cars after There were a large number of new companies formed in the period from to Steam cars outnumbered other forms of propulsion among very early cars. In the U. The center of U. By , 43 of them were gone and by the end of of those companies that were started in the decade those left were White which lasted to , Conrad which lasted to , Turner-Miesse of England which lasted to , Morriss to , Doble to , Rutherford to , and Pearson-Cox to Assembly-line mass production by Henry Ford dramatically reduced the cost of owning a conventional automobile, was also a strong factor in the steam car's demise as the Model T was both cheap and reliable.
Additionally, during the 'heyday' of steam cars, the internal combustion engine made steady gains in efficiency, matching and then surpassing the efficiency of a steam engine when the weight of a boiler is factored in. With the introduction of the electric starter , the internal combustion engine became more popular than steam, but the internal combustion engine was not necessarily superior in performance, range, fuel economy and emissions. Some steam enthusiasts feel steam has not received its share of attention in the field of automobile efficiency.
Apart from Brooks of Canada, all the steam car manufacturers that commenced between and were in the United States. Endurance were the last steam car manufacturer to commence operations. They ceased business in From the s onward, various steam cars were constructed, usually by enthusiasts. Charles Keen began constructing a steam car in with the intention of restarting steam car manufacturing.
Keen's family had a long history of involvement with steam propulsion going back to his great-great-grandfather in the s, who helped build early steam locomotives. His first car, a Plymouth Coupe , used a Stanley engine. In and , Keen employed Abner Doble to create a more powerful steam engine, a v4.
He used this in La Dawri Victress S4 bodied sports car. Both these cars are still in existence. His papers and patterns were destroyed at that time. In the s, the only manufacturer to investigate steam cars was Paxton. A Ford Coupe was used as a test-bed for the engine. In , Williams Engine Company Incorporated of Ambler began offering steam engine conversions for existing production cars.
When air pollution became a significant issue for California in the mids the state encouraged investigation into the use of steam-powered cars.
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The fuel crises of the early s prompted further work. None of this resulted in renewed steam car manufacturing. Steam cars remain the domain of enthusiasts, occasional experimentation by manufacturers, and those wishing to establish steam-powered land speed records. In , California established the California Air Resources Board and began to implement legislation to dramatically reduce exhaust emissions. This prompted renewed interest in alternative fuels for motor vehicles and a resurgence of interest in steam-powered cars in the state.
The idea for having patrol cars fitted with steam engines stemmed from an informal meeting in March of members of the California Assembly Transportation Committee. In the discussion, Karsten Vieg, a lawyer attached to the Committee, suggested that six cars be fitted with steam engines for testing by California District Police Chiefs.
A bill was passed by the legislature to fund the trial. In , the California Highway Patrol initiated the project under Inspector David S Luethje to investigate the feasibility of using steam engined cars. This deal fell through because the Rankine engine manufacturers rejected the General Motors offer.
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The plan was revised and two Dodge Polaras were to be retrofitted with steam engines for testing. At the time, the California State Legislature was introducing strict pollution control regulations for automobiles and the Chair of the Assembly Transportation Committee, John Francis Foran , was supportive of the idea.
The Committee also was proposing to test four steam-powered buses in the San Francisco Bay Area that year. Lear was given a Polara but it does not appear to have been built. Both firms were given 6 months to complete their projects with Lear's being due for completion on 1 August Neither car had been completed by the due date and in November , Lear was reported as saying the car would be ready in 3 months.
As for the project, it seems to have never been completed, with Lear pulling out by December. In , the National Air Pollution Control Administration announced a competition for a contract to design a practical passenger-car steam engine. Five firms entered. General Motors introduced two experimental steam-powered cars in The results was disappointing. In October , the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the California Institute of Technology put out a challenge for a race August from Cambridge, Massachusetts to Pasadena, California for any college that wanted to participate in.
The race was open for electric, steam, turbine power, and internal combustion engines: liquid-fueled, gaseous-fueled engines, and hybrids. The California Assembly passed legislation in to contract two companies to develop steam-powered cars.