The year was 1958, the nation and the world were wrapped up in the space age, and nods towards high minded concepts of a high tech positive future were showing up in everything from the most basic household appliances to the architecture underlying our hospitals and research universities. This is also the world of high flying dreams that gave us the Jetsons.
What we now may think of as the space age was more commonly called the atomic age at the time. It was a world characterized by the cold war, the space race that came with it, and the technology and innovation promised by the relatively new introduction of atomic energy. Each segment of industry, society, and government had their own spin on this new world. Ford was the only major American car manufacturer to really pounce on the idea with plans for an actual production model nuclear vehicle, the Ford Nucleon (pictured above with William Ford standing by).
This nuclear powered automobile was designed, according to Ford, based on the assumption that future nuclear reactors would be smaller, safer, lighter and more portable. The original Ford design called for a power capsule to be located in the rear of the car, with charging stations replacing gas stations with 5,000 miles of driving before recharging or replacing the fuel. This is essentially a nuclear powered foreshadowing of the present breakthrough world of plugin hybrid technology.
Can we do this today? Should we? Well, one benefit of producing a nuclear capable car in the present day would be the long life of a single charge. According to experts in the field, a single nuclear power pack could fuel a vehicle for several years without ever being recharged or refurbished. Another benefit would be the emissions factor. There ideally wouldn’t be any.
What are the cons? Well, the zero emissions, and the safety of those in and near the car, is based upon an assumed adequate shielding from the immense nuclear power. A nuclear power plant uses concrete several feet thick to house a reactor and separate it from the outside world. No current technology could adequately shield a possible small car reactor without turning the car into a sort of sluggish tank.
Then we have the radioactive waste. Not only would there be a concern or proper disposal, but also an immense concern over open access to nuclear material for the general public. Not everyone is dreaming of using nuclear power to fuel that road trip in the foot steps of Lewis and Clark.
Phoenix Valley auto enthusiasts should keep an eye out for new alternative fuel technologies at any Phoenix Valley area auto dealer. The Phoenix Valley area is one city, with its spread out geography and car culture, that is particularly interested in alternative fuel technologies, thus Phoenix Valley auto enthusiasts should plan on attending this years Phoenix Arizona International Auto Show to learn about the most recent concepts and innovations in the auto industry, taking place at the Phoenix Arizona Convention center over Thanksgiving weekend.