Business 2.0. Dean Kamen, the inventor behind the Segway and numerous other innovations, is experimenting with putting a Stirling heat engine in a Think City electric vehicle as a range extender.
Right now this is just a hobby for the inventor, but Kamen thinks the car could be the killer app to move toward his vision of the future: mass-produced Stirling engines powering the world’s off-the-grid villages.
If Kamen makes the Stirling work in an electric vehicle, Willums will get another power plant for his open-source car and a way to overcome drivers’ fears that they’ll run out of electrons in the middle of nowhere.
And that’s just the start. Both men see the City as part of a network of mobile generators that can draw energy from the power grid and send electricity back during periods of peak demand. “If you have enough Thinks out there, you would literally change the architecture of the grid,” Kamen says.
Stirling engines are external combustion engines. The heat source for the conversion of heat energy to mechanical energy is external to the cylinders, and can be obtained from any reliable source, such as combustion of fuel, solar, radioactivity, exothermic chemical reactions, and so on.
(A hat-tip to Dick!)