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For comparison, gasoline engines (Otto cycle engines) typically operate at around 20-25% thermodynamic efficiency these days, and diesel efficiencies are above 40%. This is well above the 15% efficiency mentioned for steam engines around 1950, but it turns out that Otto cycle engines were also about 15% efficient at the time. I don't know what a steam design could accomplish with current technologies.
(References: Encarta: Internal-Combustion Engine and EFFICIENCY OF INTERNAL COMBUSTION ENGINES)

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by technopolitical on Wed Jul 12th, 2006 at 12:52:59 PM EST
I don't know what a steam design could accomplish with current technologies.

Not much higher. The Red Devil is claimed to have reached 15.9% once, which remains the record for a normal locomotive. The machines built in the nineties by Swiss company DLM do 13%. As for future projects, check out the Advanced Technology Class 5AT 4-6-0 -- they plan for a 14.1% thermal efficiency.

Note though that various special designs (fireless, high-pressure and condenser steam locomotives) can go higher.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Jul 13th, 2006 at 03:44:39 PM EST
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