There’s Still Room For The Fireman (Feb, 1940)

There’s Still Room For The Fireman
WARTIME scarcity of gasoline, or “petrol” if you’re English, has caused Britain’s inventors to work overtime perfecting cars which will run on other substances. This car, seen in Worcester has been adopted to run on anthracite. The car is first started with petrol, and after about two minutes running is switched over to the anthracite. Consumption, it is claimed, is about 120 miles to a bag of anthracite.

  1. Harry says: July 7, 20099:49 am

    Is that a U.S. bag or an imperial bag?

  2. Thundercat says: July 7, 200910:03 am

    I’m thinking this MIGHT fail current emissions standards.

  3. Jari says: July 7, 20092:06 pm

    “Snnniiifff” Aaahh! the smell of incomplete burning to create carbon monoxide for engine to run… Here in Finland, wood was used instead of anthracite.

  4. jayessell says: July 7, 20094:49 pm

    How would this work?
    On the fly coal gassification?
    I would think contaminants would destroy the engine.

  5. Eamonn says: July 7, 20095:47 pm

    Jayessell, I found some information about WWII coal-powered cars.

    “The gas generator was an airtight vessel into which was introduced a charge of wood, charcoal, or anthracite coal. Heat was applied to the fuel either internally or externally to initiate a self-sustaining gassification of the fuel in an oxygen deprived environment. The resulting “woodgas” was piped to the reservoir, or in the case of small engines, directly to the engine carburetor. Wood-gas modified vehicles were therefore technically a “dual fuel” vehicle in that a self-sustaining gassification of the wood charcoal, or coal required another fuel to start the process.”

    It also said there was heavy filters so it didn’t trash the engine.

  6. jayessell says: July 7, 20098:52 pm

    Thanks Eamonn.
    I knew of woodgas.
    An earlier Modern Mechanics article described DIY gas making and included several filtering processes.
    My paperback ‘Handbook of Homemade Power’ mentioned it also.
    I’ve seen photos of British busses in WWII with bladders on top to hold the gaseous fuel.

    I’ve always wondered if coal ground to the consistency of talcum powder could be used in an internal combustion engine.
    There’s a project for the MythBusters!

  7. K!P says: July 8, 20093:52 am


    rudolf diesel build one of the first diesel engines to run on coaldust, so it should be possible 🙂

    (older diesels arent picky, they run fine on veggi oil, or even LARD, you just have to keep it thin enough to be pumped by the feul pump.

  8. Torgo says: July 8, 20099:31 pm

    Jayessell, there was a car that ran on fine ground coal. An experiment from the early 70s – I think it was built into a Lincoln by Ford, or into a Cadillac by GM. They got it to work, but it wasn’t very practical. A small gasoline engine would start the engine, then powdered coal would be injected into the cylinders.

  9. Jari says: July 9, 200911:21 am

    I think coaldust would tar the oil and do havoc to the piston rings.

  10. Bill Corbett says: August 19, 20099:51 am

    I can remember seeing these cars running around in England during WW2. It was said that some of the not-so-honorable drivers would purchase a coal burning furnace and mount it on the back of the car. Then they would buy petrol on the black market and drive around using petrol while pretending to use coal. It was considered a very serious crime.

  11. Johnny Payphone says: February 11, 201011:52 am

    The contaminants *will* wreak havoc on the engine, and so you need to pay attention to the fire to crack the heavy tars, then run the producer gas through a series of filters or cleaners. You can see them in the picture.

    As for modern emissions standards, since the reactor causes incomplete combustion, the car’s engine becomes the afterburner for it, and you have no emissions. You can even burn water in it. A gasoline engine dumps about 80% of its fuel out the tailpipe.

    You can buy one of these now:

  12. Jari says: February 11, 20109:20 pm

    Johnny: Zero emission is exaggeration, but they are very, very low compared to gasoline engines. Good link, thanks. Here’s latest from Finland: http://www.ekomobiili.f…

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