RadioBDC Logo
| Listen Live
< Back to front page Text size +

Future fuels: Thorium, lasers, and electromagnets

Posted by Bill Griffith  September 6, 2011 12:25 PM

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article


Pies in the sky never seem to land on my plate, but two preposterous-sounding proposals passed my desk last week. Technological entrepreneurs make for interesting proposals.

The first came from General Electric's Txchnologist, a forward-thinking digital magazine that looks at the wide world of science and technology and isn't limited to GE-focused stories. It talks about an electrical generating plant, conceived by Laser Power Systems in Sturbridge, that would be based on laser-heated thorium to create pressurized steam in a closed-loop system to drive a turbine and turn an electrical generator.

Theoretically, it claims, a 250-kilowatt unit (equivalent to about 335 horsepower) would weigh about 500 pounds and be small enough to put under the hood of a car.

LPS claims that eight grams of thorium used to power the unit would have the equivalent of 60,000 gallons of gasoline and "fuel" the car for 5,000 hours or about 300,000 miles of normal driving.

Now my high school physics class was geared for non-science students but I know that 5,000 hours at 60 mph would be 300,000 miles. However, most cars average somewhere just above 30 mph in all-around driving so we'll knock that 300,000 down to somewhere between 150,000 and 200,000 miles.

Pie in the sky? Who knows. But Cadillac did produce a concept car in 2009 that could be thorium-powered.

Our second is a claim by Advantron Technologies in West Bloomfield, Mich., that claims to have a patent-pending electromagnetic engine/generator technology that will "allow us to reach our goal of a 700-1000 mile range before needing complete recharging ... and make the EV (electric vehicle) business model realistic." No word on what type of batteries are involved.

We'll leave it to the folks who actually advanced beyond that physics class to see if either system becomes commercially viable.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article


About Boston Overdrive reports the latest trends, auto shows and wrings out the newest cars in our city's hellish maze — and across the great roads of New England.
Follow Cars on Facebook



Clifford Atiyeh is an automotive writer and car enthusiast . He has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own.
In the garage: 1995 21-speed Iron Horse, 2002 Jeep Wrangler X (by association)
Bill Griffith is a veteran Boston Globe reporter, having reviewed cars for more than 10 years and serving as assistant sports editor for 25 years. He was also the paper's sports media columnist.
In the garage: 2006 Subaru Baja
AAA's Car Doctor, John Paul John Paul is public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England, a certified mechanic, and a Globe columnist. He hosts a weekly radio show on WROL.
In the garage: Hyundai Sante Fe, Chrysler PT Cruiser convertible
Craig Fitzgerald has been writing about cars, motorcycles, and the automotive industry since 1999. He is the former editor of Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car.
In the garage: 1968 Buick Riviera, 1996 Buick Roadmaster, 1974 Honda CB450
Keith Griffin is president of the New England Motor Press Association and edits the used car section on He also writes for the Hartford Business Journal and various weekly newspapers in Connecticut.
In the garage: Mazda 5, Dodge Neon
George Kennedy is a senior writer for WheelsTV in Acton, which produces video reviews for Yahoo, MSN, and other auto websites.
In the garage: Lifted 1999 Jeep Cherokee
archives racing coverage

Dale Earnhardt Jr. shocked by Juan Montoya's departure from No. 42
By Michael Vega, Globe Staff LOUDON, N.H. --- Dale Earnhardt Jr., like most of his NASCAR brethren, was surprised to learn Tuesday that Juan Pablo...

More on Cars