In 1913, steam vehicles sounded like a great idea. Fuel was plentiful and easy to get. Anything that would burn could be used as a fuel source. Practically everything was used for fuel too. Everything from a wood log pulled from your fireplace to whale oil, raw petroleum, and coal was used successfully.
Unlike many of the other engine designs of the day, the steam engine had less than 25 moving parts to make power. Like electrical engines, the steam engines made instant torque on demand (once they reached the proper temperature).
The advantage of that instantaneous torque from steam engines allowed the designers to build a drivetrain without a multi-speed gearbox. With fewer parts in the engine and drivetrain, it was a very reliable system.
So why aren’t steam engine the preferred powerplant today? As this YouTube video shows, it took 45 minutes to start the vehicle. Who has that much “warm-up” time these days?
In 1913, the cost of a Stanley Steamer was $1,200. The body was hand-fabricated aluminum. The cars were equipped with 32 x 3.5-inch tires on a 110-inch wheel base. The boiler was a 20-inch diameter boiler unit with a 2-cylinder, double-acting 3.25 x 4.25-inch piston stroke, with a top speed of about 45 mph.
One of the highlights of the Steamer rested in the drivability. Once the system was heated to operating temperature, the driver could adjust the amount of steam sent to the two pistons with a hand control. A separate lever controlled the fuel to the burner. The engine could be engaged in reverse to help with the conventional brakes in slowing the car as well as move the car in reverse.