There may finally be a way to power your car forever — the only catch is that the fuel would be radioactive. Charles Stevens of Laser Power Systems (LPS) is working on creating an emissions free turbine/electric generator powered by nuclear thorium lasers. Though thorium is gaining a reputation as the “safe” nuclear element, with all the recent controversy surrounding nuclear power, we at Inhabitat wonder if it’s worth the risk.
Thorium is a slightly radioactive element that is incredibly abundant in parts of India. It was used as a back up power source to uranium and plutonium during World War II and though it is lighter and safer than those other materials, developments were never truly carried out with it mainly because of its inability to be weaponized. A laser produced by thorium is also unique – it does not produce a beam of light like most lasers, but instead emits a wave of heat that gives off incredible amounts of energy.
Stevens predicts that his thorium laser powered generator will weigh about 500 pounds and fit under the hood of a car. He has calculated that one gram of the element produces the equivalent of 7,500 gallons of gasoline, meaning only 8 grams of thorium could power a car for 300,000 miles.
Though Stevens is certainly at the forefront of actually developing this technology, the idea of a nuclear powered car is not new. In 2009, Cadillac announced their World Thorium Fuel concept car at the Chicago Auto Show. Though it did not contain any of the technology to power the car, the idea itself was enough to build a vehicle for.
As for our reaction, the concept car’s abbreviated name, the Cadillac WTF, seems rather fitting.
images by Loren Kulesus