NASA Stirling-powered AMC Spirit - Click above for image gallery
Over the last few months, Segway-inventor Dean Kamen has made headlines for installing a Stirling engine in an older EV from Th!nk to create an extended-range electric vehicle. Interestingly, this is not at all the first time a Stirling engine was used to power an automobile. Apparently, the U.S. Department of Energy tasked NASA with the job of fitting an American-made car with a Stirling engine way back in the 1970s when the first oil crisis had the country in its grasp.
After realizing it lacked a certain amount of expertise in refitting automobiles (as opposed to, say, space shuttles) with new engines, NASA reportedly contracted AM General to do the actual conversion work. The result of all this effort is the AMC Sprit you see above. In later years, NASA's Stirling projects also included an AMC Concord, a GM G-chassis cube van, a Dodge D-150 pickup truck and a 1985 Chevrolet Celebrity.
According to Hemmings, these vehicles were tested extensively for over 50,000 miles and were able to achieve average efficiency that ranged between 18 and 28.5 miles per gallon. Perhaps the idea of using a Stirling engine as a generator isn't so crazy after all? Thanks for the tip, Sid!