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Steam Motorcycles

Posted by gvagg2 
Re: Steam Motorcycles
June 06, 2006 03:34PM
Hi chuk

You said (refering to the Atom): "I built the Dragster to be just what it is..
this car would have to be much more and would take quite a bit more development
to be a real road car... "

But were would that development be consentrated. I agree a road car is going to take a lot more development then your dragister. But I wont to target the power plant and have it easy to get to and work on.

The comparson I made to your dragister: "An Atom type steamer would be on about the same level of Chuck's dragster to build." was for a developed kit.

But now you got me thinking. Why not a kit. The first would use developed technology. A DA 2 piston, piston valve engine. A LaMont steam generator. Maybe no condenser at first. Make some development money. Sell updated components.

Andy
Re: Steam Motorcycles
June 06, 2006 10:00PM
Andy,

You don't need to spend any time developing the rolling chassis for a mobile steam project - there are millions of existing complete bikes, carts, cars, small trucks, industrial plant and the like just waiting to be used. A slightly damaged machine or one with a blown or removed engine is not expensive. Vehicles ready for the scrap yard can be picked up free as owners have to pay someone to haul them away. Incomplete kit projects can be found on E-Bay for below material cost. We don't buy new cars anymore as you can get good used ones with 2/3 life remaining in them for about one third the new sticker price. So the base item is the cheap and easy bit.

What developers have to do is identify projects others will want and provide steam hardware to fit them in an affordable way. A small project, such as a bike, go-cart, ORV, gen set etc allows simpler one or two cylinder engines (more if you like) and more basic boilers to be built and used. The step up to a full car project may only be a size factor, namely making the same system physically larger or doubling up the same sized parts. A one cylinder SA engine will run most projects I've mentioned. You can use a one or two cylinder SA or DA, or anything else and just adjusting size and running speed to get the power and life you need. Simple is good but poor steam economy is bad.

The boilers need to be easy to make, safe to use but not needing annual certification inspections (some may give longer periods). You can do better than a Lamont but some of its attributes are needed in new boilers.

You need to get the price right. For many steam has become a rich man's hobby with few consumers benefits but this is not what promoters are trying to tell us.
We need designs that turn this around and make it so affordable that non-believers will be at a disadvantage by not having the product. The most obvious benefit that needs to be found is the total cost of ownership being less when everything is taken into account. Being equal is not enough to encourage a change and a hobby operator will not care much either way. I use a number of industrial petrol engines and although cheap, you have to keep on replacing them as their life if not good. Farmers need a fire fighting pump, emergency gen set and a run about vehicle, a ride on lawn mower just as a start - thats four applications alone before you get into anything in the fun or main use categories. So there are plenty of real needs to satisfy.

Regards,

Graeme
Re: Steam Motorcycles
June 07, 2006 10:58AM
Hi greame

You brought up a lot of points there. But the maine point: If you are going make a business is having coustemers. All thoes potententials except the rich steam enthousust are a real hard sell. Right now the easy market is rich steam excentrics that can aford to spend $20,000 to $60,000 or more on toys. Model Works has proven there is a small market for toy steamers. They are making money. I think a more modern version would do as well. And sounds like most of thoes that bought a Likamobile are chomping at the bit to buy the next.

How many hear would pay 40,000 to 50,000 for an Atom Steamer say with a top speed of 100 MPH.

Andy
Re: Steam Motorcycles
June 07, 2006 02:17PM
If Modelworks were to build a kit of a steam motorcycle like the Haleson, I would be on the list of buyers. Why not a steam powered trike based on the Honda Goldwing trike? The original Goldwing engine could be converted to steam in the same manner that Barrett converted the VW engine to steam.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/07/2006 02:21PM by John Britton.


Re: Steam Motorcycles
June 07, 2006 03:21PM
Andy,

I agree the Toy Steam market can be profitable but these vehicles are not representative of a 21st century product and one that only a handful of people will ever want. The motor media will not take them seriously. They are not economical on fuel and water and do not meet current vehicle safety standards for crash protection.

The general public would buy more steam Atoms at $50k, with sales going higher if some practical features, like additional luggage space and a little more weather protection were added. If I win Lotto, I'd do something like that.

The market for high performance sports cars is not big and drops off greatly as prices go up. Cult cars, like the Morgan roadster that has been around for about 100 years now, still produce 100 or so a year and have a waiting list up to two years long. On the other hand a Lambo model may only sell a total of 300 in its entire run over several years. Exotic models costing $100k to $1m are small volume rich people's pleasure machines and cost a fortune to own. Most are lousy investments and depreciate rapidly outside the showroom. The media writes rave articles about them but don't buy them, neither does the general public.

You could sell a safe, exciting steamer that can get to 100 mph a little quicker than an average family car for under $50k.

Sales volume would vary with its daily use potential - just going quickly would be your worst market and if it only ranked 177 out of 178 vehicles in the market you might not sell any. You go broke trying to make low volume, low cost products or even high volume low cost products if there is no net profit in the venture. Have an exchange steam system for worn out V8s and V6s for fitting to sound bodies of popular cars, at a price that is less than a new car changeover, would be my preferred option. This only requires worrying about the power plant. This retains vehicles consumers want, saves them money for upgrading, fuel, maintenance and depreciation. This is an all-ways winning situation (WIN WIN they say in management speak). That still may be a long way off as you need lots of testing to prove the system is safe and dependable on the open road in the hands of the public who would have no idea of what was under the hood or what to do if it stopped in the middle of an 8 line highway in peak traffic. Everytime I'm on a busy highyway I ask myself "can a modern steamer be reliable enough to keep running in traffic like this?"

So back to the drawing board to look at some entry level applications a small number can build now. It is a step leading to full size applications soon after.
Everyone wants to start at the top and avoid doing the hard yards. There is an 80+ year development gap that has to be filled first and a lot of people to be retrained to support any continuous steam applications. Much to do and no time to do it in.

Graeme

PS. I don't believe steam has the equivalent of the Tooth Fairy, namely that mysterious mass manufacturer who is going to save the day with a massive investment to provide a choice of show room products. How many choices do you really have? What can you really buy at present and does it satisfy long term needs?
Re: Steam Motorcycles
June 07, 2006 04:53PM
How about something like this for a toy?


Re: Steam Motorcycles
June 08, 2006 01:37AM
John,

Here is a labelled picture of the minibike before the condenser was fitted beside the engine on the left side. I understand an engine driven cooling fan is fitted. This is a propane fuelled system and similar to many others built to RJ Smith plans sold in the late 1960s.

After seeing what local kids can do with the slightly larger 125cc engined mountain bikes, I would suggest going up one notch for something around that size or a Moped.

Graeme


Re: Steam Motorcycles
June 09, 2006 03:14PM
Graeme,

I brought up the RJ Smith minibike as they (IC Powered minibikes) are still available and inexpensive here in the US. I don't know how well the RJ Smith steam minibike performed, but it would appear that it would be a fairly inexpensive project and a great education tool.

You mention something a little larger, perhaps a Moped. Roger Ullsky converted a Motobecane Moped that he called SteamPed. I don't believe it was 125cc though.
[www.geocities.com]

John Britton



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/09/2006 03:33PM by John Britton.


HLS
Re: Steam Motorcycles
June 09, 2006 04:12PM
What a great little machine
Harry
Re: Steam Motorcycles
June 11, 2006 08:08PM
John,

I think the steam minibike could get to 40 mph. The engine displacement is small(about 1.2 cubic inch) and high revving. Some of us used the same steam plant with a larger 3 cubic inch engine and lower engine speeds. On a light trike I could do 25 mph with two people and that seemed very fast on narrow neighbourhood streets with tight turns, and was as fast as I wanted to go. I think around 30 mph is a typical speed for small motorised bikes. A road bike would be designed for the speed the driver needed, noting some have claimed over 100 mph capability.

Here is a link to a series of pictures for the construction of a replica of Roper's last steam motorcycle. A modern bike would have much less work if using the minibike design approach.
[www.lindsaybks.com]

Regards,

Graeme
Re: Steam Motorcycles
June 13, 2006 11:55PM
Hi Graeme: The 3 cubic inches you mention may be of special interest to some depending on where they live. In Hungary, and I think some USA states, mopeds up to 50 cc (3.05 cu. In.) do not need to be licensed.

John Féhn
Hungary
Re: Steam Motorcycles
June 14, 2006 01:09PM
John,

It appears most states world wide have concessions for low powered bikes, trikes and karts with engines under 50cc and operated below 30mph. There are restrictions on where they can be used, the ages of operators and safety rules. Check you local motor vehicle registration authority for current rules. You cannot afford to have an accident in a public place with an illegal, uninsured vehicle. More comments are included in the next post topic relating to the Myers Model Engine. A collection of notes on USA state regulations for Mopeds found by Earl is at: [moped2.org]

Mopeds are identified around the world as a specific class so an upgraded 50cc steam engine would have a wide potential. Some of us have already built new engines or steam conversions this size and I would suggest this is the smallest size SACA members consider. If concessions are available for larger engines I would prefer a larger size. The variation in material and time costs to build a small steam system are insignificant, so a bigger and stronger engine should last longer and provide more flexibility in use. The downside could be the higher costs of ownership due to annual fees for licences and insurance if you move above a concession level. Whole of life additional costs can amount to several thousand dollars.

Being a cheap, low powered product, a manufacturer would need to sell a lot to cover manufacturing costs. On the other hand a 50cc steam engine is well within the capability of a hobby machinest. SACA members have built these before but none were really refined products. Best ideas could be knocked into shape if there was a new demand. Ask around to see how much enthusiasm exists for them or different products that could use the same power plant.

Regards,

Graeme
HLS
Re: Steam Motorcycles
June 14, 2006 03:08PM
the newest technology in hybrid motorcyles
[www.chooseyouritem.com]
Re: Steam Motorcycles
June 15, 2006 05:00AM
I have reason to believe that the two most liberal moped license states are Louisiana and Hawaii, neither of which, for some strange reason, has any information listed. Very interesting.

I notice that for Maryland, the 50 cc restriction only applies to internal combustion engines but 1.5 HP applies to all engines. From this, I suspect that quite often, if not usually, the 50 cc rule is probably irrelevant for steam engines. Proving HP ratings for steamers might be a problem.
Re: Steam Motorcycles
June 15, 2006 02:15PM
John,

Potential users for each state location will need to check local rules before building or buying a steam powered product for road use.

I've notices that some advertisements for mopeds have listed one or two states in USA where the product is not approved for sale. On the other hand Italy has rules but everyone ignors them.

To protect yourself from financial ruin following a court action after an accident when someone is injured or killed, you need to comply with all relevant licence and insurance requirements for machines and users. These vary from state to state and there is no intention to design a specific product that meets every requirement in every country. The easy approach is to just have larger machines that qualify as a full motorcycle that are approved for main highway use. Individuals seeking concessions can downsize or restrict use to stay within local regulations. There are several use categories for motorised vehicles and different rules for each.

If there is a power limit for an engine, the builder or user will need to provide a load test certificate to claim a concession. A wheel dyno test is easy to arrange. If you need International Certification for a product, please send lots of money and we will organise a team of people to check all the rules, then design, build and test products around them. Where do the customers live?

Regards,

Graeme
Anonymous User
Re: Steam Motorcycles
September 08, 2006 12:46PM
Hi,
I haven't checked out the Forum recently but I'm glad to see that there are others interested in developing a steam motorcycle. Just to stir some carrots into the stew, did you check out the Hubbard steamcycle on the CAMA website.

[www.ctamachinery.com]
[www.ctamachinery.com]

Weight of engine here is 44 lb. This is a two cylinder pushrod valve design with a light flywheel and direct drive. Having been a lifelong motorcycle rider, I don't think that direct drive presents a problem. To stop, you need only to cut off the steam and coast and brake to a stop. As long as one does not stop for any great period of time, the engine should stay hot enough (with insulation) so condensation does not occur. Starting out from a stop is never a problem since you have your feet on the ground to give the bike a push if necessary. Until I actually test ride this bike under steam, I won't know if acceleration will be adequate with the 4 to l gearing. A centrifucal clutch may be needed. There are extra controls to learn on a steamcycle. In addition to steam throttle and brakes, there are additional controls for steam cut-off, burner throttle, water cutoff, and fuel cutoff and possibly draincock controls.The boiler here is a triple concentric coil watertube with superheating loop. Displacement of the engine is 6 cu in.

I've ridden the bike to the end of a compressed air hose. With 80psi air, it just bearly accelerates. This steamcycle is a one-off and it is not without it's problem areas. This was designed to use a kerosene fired vaporization burner but the burner design couldn't properly vaporize kerosene so the maker switched to using gasoline (not safe). Other problems with his initial design, 1) no draincocks on the steam chest or cylinders, to allow preheating 2) lots of heat-related problems due to locating the boiler under the engine and I'm sure others.

Positives of this design: Metered mechanical water injection via properly sized water pump, metered mechanical fuel delivery pump, auxillary foot operated water pump, oil pump plus splash lubrication and feedwater preheating.

I've not had a chance to build a new boiler for this bike yet. I'm still trying to locate a source of heat and pressure rated 1/2" annealed steel tubing. The boiler requires ~75' of tubing. I like the compactness and placement of this boiler down low and out of the way. Hopefully, I can make it all work together by proper insulation and heat shielding.

Jim (Steamcycle2006)
Re: Steam Motorcycles
September 08, 2006 04:22PM
Jim,

Thanks for the description of this bike. It is cleaning up nicely. Suitable pressure grade tubing is available but ask for the annealled range for ease of winding. I think it will run well on superheated steam once you find a good initial starting pressure for the engine. Your starting arrangement is viable for a bike with a fixed drive but would not be too much fun for a car in traffic :-).

Graeme
Re: Steam Motorcycles
September 09, 2006 09:49AM
Hi Graeme,

No, it was the Tesla, an identical useless gadget, that they say will sell for $150,000.00. Made right here in town. Hoping to snare the gold chain brigade, who have more money than taste or common sense and just buy toys.

No problem putting 200 volts or more into a 48 volt motor and getting super performance out of it, until it goes up in smoke. Pack the motor in dry ice and let it go, another world's record!! Simply stupid vehicles.
The noise seems to come from the DC-AC converter, not as loud as a Stanley burner; but a very offensive whine. We saw the same thing when we built the power system for the DSRV for the Navy. Had to silence it.

Yes, it did use the AC Propulsion system with tons of little Li-ion batteries, I recall reading that they use some 3700 of them. Wish those people would see just how bad a lithium fire can be, really nasty. Same for any of the alkali metals like potassium or sodium. They even brag about it.

Nothing wrong with a nice little electric for running around town, like the Honda electric some guy is still driving here. Problem is that they claim it is pollution free and it is not, along with high milage on one charge, when they get only 50-80 miles in actuality.
JC
Re: Steam Motorcycles
September 09, 2006 04:36PM
As long as im not the only one snapping here(as a snapper), I have seen some of the X-prize competitors. These guys have shown a good skill for manufacturing exotic componets, and process automation. To bad, there ambitions are on the X-prize, not on steam engines. I read about one group in texas in PM last month, just shook my head. These guy's could actually do something in the world of steam. I like there attitude and methodology. But I guess we have nothing to worry about here on earth. As a side note, I think its all good, but if one is going to use advanced engineering capabilites, they would serve the steam engine community better than some X-prize compeditor who turns to dust(and has remarkable potential) in the next couple of years. The engineering constraints are just as demanding for steam engine power-plants, as for rocket engines. These mid-level guys should defect to our side.

Just my opinion, but I think they could do much in this field of engineering. working with LO2 and such, is in the same ball park as steam...

Jeremy



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/09/2006 04:40PM by Jeremy Holmes.
Re: Steam Motorcycles
September 09, 2006 04:49PM
Hi Jim,

Then there is the Segway, it's been the dream vehicle for the common urbanite by the watermelon elite. They even have new versions that are touted as go anywhere vehicles.

[www.segway.com]

Regards'

John
HLS
Re: Steam Motorcycles
September 10, 2006 12:13PM
You will have to forgive me as I try never to knock anouther invention. However Why would any one put the wheels side by side on a motor cycle that is an automatic gyro and have to add one to keep it upright. If you hit something, inertia will previal and you are going to break your nose. what is the point. Even an electric Razor scotter is a better idea. This proves the point about marketing, and that is where steam has had a bad rap. Some times from our selves.
If you are interested in the art of steam, a lot can be learned at the SACA meet, please come and share your dream. Bill are you coming?
Harry
Re: Steam Motorcycles
September 10, 2006 05:21PM
Harry,

I agree on the Segway comments - it appears to be an expensive solution for a problem that doesn't really exist. Another financial disaster with electric scooters was the Sinclair C5.
[www.nvg.ntnu.no]

Dreams can get out of hand.

Graeme
Re: Steam Motorcycles
September 10, 2006 07:27PM
Hello Harry,

After shopping around and asking everyone about a car that I could afford I found that my mechanic had one for sale.. My daughters old car that he had fixed up some, the same one I drove last year. Really small world.

I'll be there.

The engine design is comming along well, now it is total compound unaflow which gets rid of second stage exhaust valves, lowers the second stage displacement a lot, and really opens up exhaust porting. Recompression for the second stage is also easier to control this way. The first stage recompression still has some bugs to work out as these high expansion ratios require very low clearances to recompress.

I am hesitant to design anything under 3% clearance as thermal expansions and such can change low clearances too easily. The Williams uses about 4% as I understand it.

I thought about something that would inject a gob of putty into the cylinder at the beginning of recompression to tighten up the clearance at low cut off but figured it would just plug up the condenser. It's a decent drive of about five hundred miles and two cigars from here to Berrian Springs so I guess I'll have some time to ponder that problem. I am going to look into taking the steam ferry across the lake, it should be fun and anything to avoid that Chicago loop.


See You there --------------- Bill G.






Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 07/21/2008 12:08AM by Scott Finegan.
Re: Steam Motorcycles
September 10, 2006 09:30PM
Jim,

The Tesla EV may be more practical than some of the other EV sports cars being built and the developers and backers have plenty of money and I understand they have pre-sold the first production batch of 100. The vehicle is made by Lotus and the electrics come from proven commercial designs so they have covered their backsides pretty well.

You can build an EV for about one tenth the price of a Tesla and heavy batteries will still have a weight and range penalty. They say you can put the parts together in about 200 hours. Steamers need to come up with ways of matching the time and cost of home built EVs to get attention. A commuter vehicle does not have to break any speed records or burn rubber - just keep up with bumper to bumper traffic and not break down.

Graeme
Re: Steam Motorcycles
September 10, 2006 10:07PM
Hi Bill:

If you take the ferry, the Badger, it will cost some extra bucks. Not the cheapest way to go. On the other hand, the Chief Engineer of the Badger is an old navy reserve buddy of mine so I've ridden it for free and managed to sleep in the owners state room to boot :-). The engine room has two, count them two, Skinner steeple compound uniflow engines. Steam comes from B & W 'D' type boilers, of all things, and the fuel is coal that is crushed just before being fed by the boilers. The FDBs are driven by Terry turbines. I'm not sure if you can wrangle a visit to the engine room, since 9/11 I think security is tighter from what I hear. If you want to shoot for doing that next year, just let me know well ahead of time and I might be able to arrange something.

Regards,

Ken
Re: Steam Motorcycles
September 11, 2006 02:17AM
Thanks Ken,

I will try to ride it back home also. How long does the crossing take? Are You going to be there?


Bill G.
Re: Steam Motorcycles
September 11, 2006 05:49AM
Hi Bill:

The crossing on the Badger is a 4 hour tour, one more than Gilligan and the crew. Of course, it takes a while to load all the vehicles onto the ferry so more time than that is involved.

[www.ssbadger.com]

Unless something very sudden and unexpected comes up, I'll be at the meet. Had to take a couple vacation days and everything.

Regards,

Ken
JAT
Re: Steam Motorcycles
July 20, 2008 09:24PM
Dear Graeme

For many years I have kept a copy of an article from the July 1992 Popular Mechanics about the steam minibike designed and built by Richard J Smith for Robert Noble who at the time was the chairman of the Western Division of the Steam Automobile Club of America and an article about the same minibike that was published in the Model Engineer, a UK publication, 17 September 1971.

I am interested in building a similar bike to that of Mr Smith's design, recognising his up-and-coming reputation around 1970 as a steam developer using flash boilers.

I live in Australia and wonder if you or one of your colleagues could advise me if the plans for the steam plant that Mr Smith sold at the time (late 1960s/early 1970s) could still be purchased. Any advice about the prospect of obtaining the plans or other technical information relevant to the minibike would be greatly appreciated.

I imagine that Mr Smith would be in his 80s if he was still alive. His address published in the Popilar Mechanics article was 8591 Pyle Way, Midway City, California 92655.

According to the above-mentioned articles the minibike had quite good performance and had a good service life.

Thank you

Jim
Re: Steam Motorcycles
October 30, 2008 08:55PM
More pictures of steam 2-wheelers than I've ever seen -

[www.flickr.com]
Re: Steam Motorcycles
October 31, 2008 04:02PM
Amazing effort put into finding these pictures - super..

Mike
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