Imagine a car that would emit no harmful vapors and would offer incredible fuel mileage far beyond that of the most efficient cars ever built. It’d be sleek and silent, with only the hum of a turbine. It’d basically be run on steam. That’s how nuclear power works.
Yeah, nuclear power. The Ford Nucleon concept car was designed to be powered by a miniature nuclear reactor. Simple, safe, and eco-friendly, right?
Ford’s engineers imagined full-service recharging stations in place of gas-stations, where depleted reactors cores could be swapped out for fresh ones. The car’s reactor setup was basically just like a nuclear submarine’s, only smaller. It was designed to use uranium fission to heat a steam generator, rapidly converting water into high-pressure steam which could then be used to drive a set of turbines. One steam turbine would provide the torque to propel the car while another would drive an electrical generator. The steam would then condense back into water in a cooling coil, and be sent back to the steam generator to be reused. It’s a closed system, so as long as there is some radioactive material in there, it’s good to go. No emissions, except for the eventual nuclear waste.
Designers anticipated that a typical Ford Nucleon would be able to travel about 5,000 miles per charge.
The idea never took off because reactors that small weren’t possible at the time and the shielding needed would have weighed down the car excessively. But it’s not really that bad of an idea. The US Navy has a 100% perfect record of nuclear safety with their subs. It’s greener than a lot of other technologies, who knows, maybe we’ll see some nuclear Honda’s out there come 2020.