Alternative Fuel and Transportation

Published on February 12th, 2010 | by Derek Markham


All Fuel External Combustion Engine to Challenge Land Steam Speed Record

Imagine an engine that can run on any fuel, has lower emissions and cooler exhaust than an internal combustion engine, uses no oil, and is virtually noise-free. Imagine that it also has less parts to maintain, can develop 2.5 hp per cubic inch of displacement, and needs no transmission or oil pump system. Introducing the Cyclone: the steam engine soon to challenge the Land Steam Speed Record, which currently stands at 148.308 mph.

Image: CycloneCyclone


Cyclone Power Technologies, whose slogan is One Planet One Engine, says:

“The Cyclone Engine is a Rankine Cycle heat regenerative external combustion, otherwise known as a “Schoell Cycle” engine. In short, the Cyclone is a 21st century, high efficiency, compact and powerful steam engine.

The Cyclone Engine is capable of running on virtually any fuel (or combination of fuels) including today’s promising new bio fuels, while emitting far fewer pollutants than traditional gas or diesel powered internal combustion engines.”

When I first read about this engine, the phrase that struck me was “external combustion engine”. After I looked at the images of the engine from Cyclone, I saw how radically different it is from the internal combustion engine – fuel is still burned, but not in a cylinder under pressure, and the heat generated in the combustion chamber produces steam, which drives the engine itself.


Steam engines certainly aren’t new, and most of us wouldn’t think about them as something to look to for innovation, but the idea of an efficient, clean(er) engine capable of burning any liquid fuel, including locally sourced biodiesel, is an intriguing one right now. With the push to find ‘green’ transportation solutions, an engine that uses water as its operative fluid, and that requires no other lubrication, could have very practical applications.

Because this engine doesn’t require oil or an oil pump system, a transmission, and many other parts (view the comparison of parts of V8 engine vs. Cyclone engine), the savings in resources to both build and repair these steam engines would be a huge step forward in power generating devices (and if they can be fueled by biodiesel manufactured nearby, would have less of an impact on the environment).

The Cyclone engine, invented by Harry Schoell, operates on a Rankine cycle, and uses multiple heat recapturing processes to achieve over 30% thermal efficiency, says the company. They are developing a 6 cylinder Cyclone engine that generates 95HP, and is capable of producing up to 860 ft.lbs. of torque at starting, which is sufficient to power a full sized automobile.

For the US Land Steam Record, Cyclone has a specially designed version of the engine – a non-condensing variation of the Mark V automotive engine which can produce 180 HP by utilizing a double combustion chamber system. The team predicts speeds of over 200 mph in their challenge of the record, which may take place as early as August 2010, at the Bonneville Salt Flats.

Amazingly, the previous land speed record for a steam engine car stood for over a hundred years, set in 1906 by a Stanley Steamer in Daytona Beach. The top speed in that run was 127 mph, and it wasn’t until August of 2009 that a British team finally beat it.

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About the Author

lives in southwestern New Mexico and digs bicycles, simple living, organic gardening, sustainable lifestyle design, slacklining, bouldering, and permaculture. He loves good food, with fresh roasted chiles at the top of his list of favorites. Catch up with Derek on Twitter, RebelMouse, Google+, or at his natural parenting site, Natural Papa!

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