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Using steam to run an old car engine to turn an electric generator would be very inefficient. If you want to feed steam into something to generate rotary motion for turning a generator then I would think some type of turbine would be much better. Where would you get one? The first thought that comes to mind is a turbo charger. Feed steam into the inlet, and the thing will spin like crazy. It's designed to be run by a hot gas, car exhaust that is, so steam isn't that different from what it is used to. You would have to put some sort of gearing on the output since they spin really fast once they get going. Don't just think of sports cars as a source of turbos either. Lots of diesel trucks are turbo charged. You could probably do the same thing with a supercharger and it is already geared for the kind of speed at which you would want to run an electric generator.

Also this encyclopedia article says that steam turbines replaced piston based steam engines because they are much more efficient. You might know how to work on a simple piston engine, I know how, some others surely know how, but could any of us convert an engine to run on steam? How about people that can't even change their own flat tire? No amount of written instructions will do them any good.

Offered by Michael.

I agree that if your going to go with steam it will have to be a piston motor conversion as steam turbines are very custom animals and would be difficult to fabricate with less than a complete machine facility. Another problem with auto based turbos is their need for lubrication and/or advanced bearing designs as well as there high speed (10 of thousands RPMs). I plan on having both electric power and motorized transportation. I've chosen to rethink efficiencies and how I utilize the power, but to stay with conventional engine and motor designs that are well known, easily available and can be repaired or modified with the tools and equipment I have available now. I've found that small air cooled gasoline engines have been the best platform for my efforts. They are compact, easily worked on, can be modified in a number of ways and are very fuel tolerant, if not the most fuel efficient of engines. Furthermore up to about 15 HP they can be totally rebuilt on equipment likely to be found within any well equipped home workshop. A small vehicle or generator can be easily powered by such engines.

Offered by Ray.

Just a final observation on this topic. The issue of steam versus piston/fuel versus Rotary versus anything else has as a basic fundamental to the extent of the catastrophe. If we are talking of a 10% population reduction then O.K.. If we are talking of a near wipe out then we better all stock up on horses, oxen, sheep, tools and equipment of a century ago. Do we have any info on how humanity fared 150 years ago? This may better help us with the greater cataclysms. A good extrapolation of this is to be found in a sci-fi book of the 70s The last American.

Offered by Stephen.