Nuclear-powered concept cars from the Atomic Age

1962+Ford+Seattle ite+XXI 03 Nuclear powered concept cars from the Atomic Age by Authcom, Nova Scotia\s Internet and Computing Solutions Provider in Kentville, Annapolis Valley

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In the 1950s and early 60s, the dawn of nuclear power was supposed to lead to a limitless consumer culture, a world of flying cars and autonomous kitchens all powered by clean energy. In Europe, it offered the then-limping continent a cheap, inexhaustible supply of power after years of rationing and infrastructure damage brought on by two World Wars.

The development of nuclear-powered submarines and ships during the 1940s and 50s led car designers to begin conceptualizing atomic vehicles. Fueled by a consistent reaction, these cars would theoretically produce no harmful byproducts and rarely need to refuel. Combining these vehicles with the new interstate system presented amazing potential for North American mobility.

But the fantasy soon faded. There were just too many problems with the realities of nuclear power. For starters, the powerplant would be too small to attain a reaction unless the car contained weapons-grade atomic materials. Doing so would mean every fender-bender could result in a minor nuclear holocaust. Additionally, many of the designers assumed a lightweight shielding material or even forcefields would eventually be invented (they still haven’t) to protect passengers from harmful radiation. Analyses of the atomic car concept at the time determined that a 50-ton (45,000 kg) lead barrier would be necessary to prevent exposure.

Although hope is still alive for nuclear-powered cars – engines powered by lasers and Thorium salts have been suggested – it’s amusing to think that there was a time when these cars were seriously considered the future of transportation. Our love affair with nuclear energy has waned considerably since the catastrophes at Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and, most recently, Fukushima.

Take a trip back in time to when creativity was out matched only by naïveté by checking out these nuclear-powered car concepts from automakers like Ford and Studebaker-Packard. Radiation suit not included.

Nuclear-powered concept cars from the Atomic Age

Nuclear-powered concept cars from the Atomic Age originally appeared on Autoblog Canada on Fri, 18 Jul 2014 15:00:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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