In the 1950′s people were still quivering with anticipation to see what new possibilities will nuclear power open for them. Nuclear powered houses, trains, airplanes and cars, all dreams of a petrol free future, without much thought on the dangers of nuclear power.
Ford Nucleon was one of those dreams, a nuclear powered car that was supposed to travel for 5,000 miles without a recharge. The nuclear car project was announced in 1957 by Ford, and it was a futuristic looking vehicle with an incredibly efficient fuel mileage, thanks to the small atomic fission reactor fitted in the trunk.
The setup of it’s nuclear reactor was similar to that of a nuclear submarine, but miniaturized to fit into an automobile. The idea was to use uranium fission to heat the steam generator, which turned water into steam, which could be used to drive a set of turbines. One of the turbines would propel the car, while the other would power an electrical generator. Steam would be turned back into water through condensation, and reused by the steam generator after that. As long as fissile material remained, the reactor would’ve produced power through this closed system.
And, because the powerplant was interchangeable, the owner could choose between a high mileage with low torque version or a more powerful version if that’s what they needed.
Can you imagine driving with no worries only to have another car smash into the mini nuclear reactor strapped to your back? Did they really think this through?
Luckily, there were no operational models built, but they gave it quite some thought apparently. Why they didn’t make one? Increased public awareness of the dangers of nuclear power, the absence of the light materials that could be used for shielding and the lack of advances in the mini nuclear reactors area. Lucky us!
You can find here a description of the Ford Nucleon from the company. (third model)