If I told you GM built and tested a coal-powered automobile, you might assume I was referring to modern electric vehicles, which are coal-powered by proxy from power plants that unfortunately still usually run on energy from coal (EVs are still cleaner than gasoline, though!). But, no, we are talking about the Oldsmobile that General Motors built using coal as a direct energy source inside the vehicle.
If the air pollution associated with a coal-powered car makes you anxious, don’t worry, the car never came to the production line. For now, we’ll have to settle on emitting greenhouse gases via fossil fuels and natural gas. Or, if you’re driving the newest Tesla model…coal.
Before Tesla’s Coal-Powered EV’s, There Was the GM Coal-dsmobile
During the oil crises of the ’70s and ’80s, people became painfully aware of the fact that we should not rely on fossil fuels and natural gas to power our vehicles. Gas prices were skyrocketing and lines at the pump grew longer and longer. Rather than look for a renewable energy source like wind power, General Motors decided to look into coal, a seemingly abundant resource, as a solution to the gas crisis.
The ’77 Oldsmobile Delta 88 shown in the above video is powered by a turbine engine, which runs off of coal dust. The dust is crushed into a micro powder, which is then injected into the internal combustion engine turbine. While the vehicle did run reasonably well at speeds comparable to gasoline engines, it was much, much louder — far too loud for a production line in the United States. So, don’t expect to see this system inside that 2021 SUV you’ve had your eye on.
Besides modern coal plant-powered electric cars and the GM Oldsmobile, there were actually several other coal-powered vehicles made. There were several coal-powered vehicles puttering around Europe during World War II, as well!