Electric cars are about to be made to look like donkeys. Hydrogen cars are about to be made to feel about as advanced as a herd of goats. Forget what you know, because cars that can run for 100 years without refuelling could be just around the corner. There’s a new propulsion technology on the horizon that uses an incredibly dense element called thorium. It’s so dense that even the smallest grain of it has the potential to create more heat than a dozen clones of Eva Mendes. And okay, we're well aware that nobody apart from Rolls-Royce and maybe Bentley could make a car that could last for 100 years, but it's a nice round number and it's what's on the table. An American company called Laser Power Systems is working on using thorium to generate enough energy to create a laser, which heats water and creates steam that can ultimately provide motion. Just eight grams of thorium is enough to power a car for a century, and while it’s in the early stages it’s genuinely viable. The current prototype ‘engine’ is said to weigh about 225kg, making it comparable with internal combustion motors. The real eye-opener is that one gram of thorium is said to contain more energy than 28,000 litres of unleaded. That’s the equivalent of 509 full fill-ups of a 55-litre petrol tank, and when the average European Joe will only fill his tank about 50 times over three years, that makes thorium a huge deal. With low mileage a thorium car could run for 10 decades. What’s more, there’s much less environmental risk than with nuclear power. At worst thorium power produces 10 times less long-lived radiation than typical nuclear fission. At best, we’re talking 10,000 times less. Bit of a no-brainer, really, especially if the government ends up deciding to bury it at the bottom of your garden.
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