On E-Cat Powered Vehicles (Zack Iszard)

The following comment was posted on this thread by Zack Iszard

My favorite potential application of the E-Cat technology is automotive.

TL;DR: Given the announced power density in this thread of 10 kW/L, an E-Cat-based electric drivetrain for a large freeway-capable passenger vehicle weighs less than 600 kg, comparable to modern gasoline-based systems. The E-Cat technology is already competitive in power density for automotive applications, and would be revolutionary in large transport vehicles such as buses and cargo trucks.

An ideal configuration for cars involves immediate-delivery capacitors (for power) coupled to buffering batteries (to let the reactor warm up). This ideal configuration for any portable nuclear reactor (also works for thorium molten salt systems) is this energy flow: [Reactor] -(steam)-> [Steam turbine generator] -> [Battery bank] + [Capacitor bank] -> [Electric motors].

The mass of these systems can be estimated. 50 HP of generator continuous output (max) is completely sufficient for a large passenger vehicle to cruise at freeway speed. Assuming the heat exchanger setup is comparable to power plant efficiencies, steam turbines are roughly 30% efficient. 50 HP / 0.30 * 0.745 (kW per HP) = 124 kW. This reactor would occupy about 12.4 L of space.

The reactor’s maximum density is likely to be less than that of the bulk of the fuel, Nickel; using this as an upper bound, the reactor here would weigh 12.4 L * 8.9 kg/L = 111 kg. Huge assumption for heat exchanger/turbine mass of not more than twice the reactor weight itself, 222 kg. This totals to 333 kg. Battery and capacitor banks for this purpose need not be heavier than about 50 kg, now a sum of 383 kg. Electric motors, one per wheel with the necessary drive linkage, would weigh about 50 kg each, for a total of 200 kg. The total mass of the drivetrain and energy system of this hypothetical vehicle as estimated here is 583 kg, which is comparable to the gasoline engine, transmission, and drive linkage of a modern SUV, and this is a liberal weight estimate. With modern or cutting-edge materials, this design could easily be reduced by 100 kg or more, for example by using EEStor’s capacitor technology to replace the battery bank.

I must disclaim that I did not find actual mass numbers for most components, but instead I estimated based on several existing sys tems: 50 kg of batteries and capacitors is derived from 10% of the mass of the equivalent system in the original Tesla Roadster, for example.

Given that Rossi seems to think the E-Cat power density will only increase from here, we may very well see high peak output reactor/generator systems developed for cars that completely crush the EV competition in a short number of years. Such a vehicle would have all of the intrinsic benefits of EVs but with *staggering range*. The reactor/generator system would replace much of the mass of batteries, with only a small bank to act as a buffer to provide quick-demand power as is needed in cars. An even more prominent usage of the E-Cat for transport would be to replace combustion systems in buses and cargo trucks, again to exploit the staggering range of a reactor-based electric drive. I personally would like to own an RV with such a system!

Assuming the 1MW plant performs as hoped and makes mainstream announcement by the end of this new year, I expect luxury car makers (Mercedes-Benz, specifically, due to it’s early investment in EV systems) to have a reactor-driven luxury SUV or large car available by 2020; this company also has a market share in cargo trucks.

Zack Iszard

  • Sometimes things get over thought.
    The E-cat makes steam…….
    There have been many successful steam powered cars.
    The torque is better than petrol or diesel cars .
    Over thinking again. A Sterling engine using Condenser heat to drive alternator?
    Adiabatic convertor for air con.
    Just a thought .

    • bkrharold

      That was my first thought, since it would eliminate a wasteful conversion step to electricity. On further consideration, a hybrid solution may be more appropriate for the e-cat, because once started, it generates power continuously, whether or not it can be used. Most of the power generated would be lost, while sitting in traffic or parked. A hybrid steam/electric power train, would allow the use of steam, and storage of unused power in a rechargeable battery for later use. At night while the vehicle is parked outside, the excess electricity could be used to supply the home. In this way a 10Kw e-cat could supply both transportation and domestic energy requirements, sufficient for most needs, even with only 30-40% conversion efficiency.

      • My second thought is that why limit it to one e-cat per car.
        Using a smaller e-cat as a pony to pull the bigger e-cat up start- run condition. Small e-cat running continuously, charging battery and running air con’. even maybe driving a small fly wheel storage unit. I believe that the e-cats can be throttled to control heat output. So even the smaller one would run as required . the heat wasted not being a big concern.

        • bkrharold

          That is an excellent idea. It would bring down the cost of an electric vehicle enough that everyone could own one.

    • Albert D. Kallal

      Actually, a continues RPM sterling would work quite well since such an engine can be rather small, and packaged quite well. So you wind up using the engine to “reduce” the size of battery banks

      Thus when you go shopping or whatever, the engine can continue to run and charge up the batteries.

      Dean Kamen built such a car based on above concept.


      I suspect that this setup will the be FIRST commercial LENR powered car.

      Albert D. Kallal
      Edmonton, Alberta Canada

    • Zack Iszard

      Indeed very true! My focus on using electric energy as the main energy currency is to make the system most usable: max power output available at cold start. Steam-power only has the drawback of needing reactor heat to produce power. As Albert D. K. states below, a steam-electric hybrid is probably the winner for efficiency and max power, where E-Cat -> steam drive replaces gasoline drive in a gas-electric hybrid.

  • builditnow

    Nice analysis.
    A simpler design is a converted gas/aircraft turbine using Hot Cats. By using air flow to control the reactor temperature, reactor COP could be very high enabling most of the power from the turbine to be used as power. The first step could be fitting a micro turbine / generator to existing electric cars. Scaling up, a modified existing auxiliary power generator currently used in aircraft could power larger vehicles. Scaling up further, the main jet engines of aircraft could be converted to Hot Cats for heat. Such a conversion has already been done with the nuclear powered aircraft that reportedly flew under nuclear (fission) power.

  • Mattias Andersson

    It looks like some of the major car manufacturers are making advancements with fuel cell technology. I don’t know how much a fuel cell motor would weigh, but it’s interesting to note that several methods for producing hydrogen relies on reactions being made under high temperature (for instance high-temperature electrolysis and steam reforming.) The E-cat could serve as tool for making hydrogen production more efficient.

  • EEStorFanFibb

    Thank you for mentioning EEStor. :p

    • Zack Iszard

      I have faith that a giant K dielectric material as the barium titanate they use will one day be of great consequence to high-power-density energy storage. The room is there theoretically, they only need to make it happen!

  • Richard Merritt

    The Doble E-20 steam car is a proven technology that used kerosene as its heat source. Kerosene has an ignition temperature of 220 °C or 428 °F, making the E-Cat a suitable replacement for Kerosene.
    If Industrial Heat is truly a seller of heat, find a spare engineer or two to adapt the E-Cat technology to the presumably expired Doble E-20 patented design. If the SSM figures are correct, meshing this new technology with older technology makes the E-Cat even more reliable as a heat source.
    If you doubt the Doble E – 20, check it out here, http://youtu.be/rUg_ukBwsyo

  • Gerard McEk

    Excellent idea. The interesting thing is that you can use the E-cat in a self sustaining mode:
    Controlling the E-cat temperature by controlling the output heat flow. I believe you cannot control the temperature of the Ecat sufficiently to be useable for the speed control of the car, so the buffering intrim stage of a battery/capacitor or both is a good thought. As others say you can use a turbine to generate the electricity if the E-cat temperature is sufficienly high (> 500 C).

  • Anon2012_2014

    The problem is ECAT to synfuels is likely to be only 10% efficient — the CO2 to CO, and then the H20 to H2 for input to the Fischer-Tropisch process are likely to be only 20% and 50% efficient, and then we have the ECAT heat to electricity, which is likely to be only 40 to 50% efficient. Finally, you are burning that gasoline in a 35% efficient internal combustion engine. So you get (20+50%)/2 * (45%/2) * 35% = 5.5% ECAT to synfuel to the road.

    I think CO2 to CO and H20 to H2 is more likely from solar electric in the next 10 years. We will see ECAT direct drive if we can make a portable 80 kW unit. Note that we could use conventional Musk batteries to respond to the throttle up and down time for the ECAT core.

    • Zack Iszard

      Battery buffering for the energy demand on the reactor would be necessary, at least until reactor output can be controlled with similar response as a gasoline engine. Gas turbine cars failed in the 60s, not because of their greater fuel efficiency, better comfort and quieter operation, but because of slow throttle response. Thus the need for batteries as a buffer. The concept I discuss in the post is not my original concept, only one I bothered to (barely) crunch numbers for.

  • Omega Z

    You overlook to much. First, The E-cats work with AC. Not DC. Also at small scale, 25% conversion would be most Ideal, tho 20% would be the more likely. At least half of which would be required to power the E-cats & the apparatus that adjoins it, Leaving 1Kw at best per 10Kw reactor. Note the Tesla is powered by an 85Kw battery.

    The Hot-cat is still in R&D and likely wont be available for such use for sometime. You numbers are based on the LT- E-cat which has a peek 120’C usable output temp.

    • Zack Iszard

      Clearly, I assumed a lot in that posting, but only enough to make my point.

      The Tesla Model S was originally sold with a choice of either a 60 kWh or 85 kWh battery. That is a measure of energy. 10 kW per liter for E-Cat active components is a measure of power, or energy per unit time. The battery packs in the Tesla Model S can deliver much more than 85 kW of power (specifically, 310 kW, or 416 bhp), but only for 85 kWh / 310 kW = 0.274 hours.

      I assumed 30% efficiency of heat converted to DC power via steam turbine, which is somewhat optimistic but not trivial, considering modern industrial steam turbine generators operate in the 40-50% thermal efficiency range. Direct conversion of heat through rotation to DC at 30% isn’t unreasonable, and 20% would be facile with off-the-shelf parts. Generally, converting AC to DC is more efficient than the other way around, and converting mechanical energy (steam turbine) to either can be done at equivalent efficiency.

      I wasn’t aware that the 10 kW/L figure applied only to a low-temp E-Cat. I was under the impression that, at present, IH products are more power-dense at higher operating temps, though I lack a citation here. I assumed

  • Zack Iszard

    flaviatore, I admit my time expectations are overly ambitious, by roughly 10 years. I also bow to your experience, as I have no specific idea how difficult all-new, next-generation (game-changing) product design may be.

    Yes, there are many product-development factors I’m simply ignoring. Safety studies on stationary systems will do much for advancing moving systems, but there will be risks to vehicle use that simply aren’t present in a stationary system. What about reactor breaches — lithium aluminum hydride is pyrophoric (catches fire when exposed to air), so how can its release be minimized or eliminated in the event of a crash? What about cooling systems and the amount of reactor control needed for high-demand city driving? I could continue, and those like yourself could add much more.

    Nonetheless, the similarity of a reactor-EV design to current EV designs (just need more cooling), coupled with eagerness to exploit a new source of energy for profit — and the fact that the reactor-powered [fill-in-the-blank] thought space has been thoroughly explored already — will push a faster acceptance of revolutionary technology than anything before in the transportation sector. My point in the paragraphs above is to illustrate that LENR technology is easily adapted to one current cutting edge approach (EVs), and that a hypothetical basic design is already competitive. This means the rest is engineering, not science, and that is very good news for progress.

    Perhaps military or large-vehicle commercial adoption (ships, trucks) will happen first, and I won’t be driving my factory LENR-powered sport sedan until the 2040s, but I have high faith in the power of this expanding technology that the public has been waiting to embrace, even if subconsciously, for decades.

  • Zack Iszard

    TPaign, while I understand your analogy that fossil fuels function somewhat like a battery, they are principally different in that most batteries in modern use are chemically reversible, unlike combustible material, even if we have processes to reform fuel from exhaust. I think viewing the entire carbon cycle on Earth as a single rechargeable battery – one we’re depleting a little more each day – is a fair way to look at it, but the efficiency of converting CO2 and water back into hydrocarbons and oxygen will never, IMO, come close to the compactness or energy efficiency of charging a battery from locally-produced electricity.

    Personally, I think fossil fuels should be abandoned in common use as soon as possible, and petroleum should be reserved for durable goods only. I’ll always have a soft spot for classic cars, but daily commutes, goods shipments, and commercial flights need to be made with battery (and reactor) power.

    The E-Cat and similar reactor systems will be perfectly suitable to the grunt work of transportation (thermal jet engines for flight, direct-drive steam turbines for shipping, generator-fed battery-powered electric motors for ground transport) and will be more amenable than many think. Such concepts as the thermal jet engine have existed since the 40s during the atomic revolution, but never came about due to hazardous radiation problems. Implementations have already been dreamt up for the E-Cat before the E-Cat was ever envisioned. The paradigm shift to reactor-powered [fill-in-the-blank], originally forecast to be driven by fission energy, will instead be driven by LENR, but that paradigm isn’t new. It has merely been on the shelf for decades.