I've read a lot on
the internet about Tesla and a 1931 Pierce Arrow. Apparently, he
installed an 80 hp electric engine and drove the car for a week on
radiant energy at speeds up to 90 mph. The information was relayed
by his nephew, Peter Savo, to Derek Ahlers after Tesla's death.
What's your take on this story?
In light of a report that
Tesla did not have a nephew by the name of Peter Savo, the
radiant-energy powered Pierce
Arrow account must be taken with a degree of skepticism. A number web pages exist (listed
below) that serve to perpetuate the anecdote. Every account of this purported demonstration auto is based upon
a story supposedly told to a "Derek Ahlers," plus what appears
to be literary
Tesla did assert that his
system for the wireless transmission of electrical energy could be used
for the propulsion of aircraft and ships at sea. Writing to
Benjamin F. Miessner in 1915 he stated,
In an article in the
Century Magazine . . . I have related the circumstances which led me
to develop the idea of a self-propelled automaton. My
experiments were begun sometime in '92 and from that period, on, until
'95, in my laboratory at 35 South Fifth Avenue, I exhibited a number
of contrivances and perfected plans for several complete
automata. After the destruction of my laboratory by fire in '95,
there was an interruption in these labors which, however, were resumed
in '96 in my new laboratory at 46 Houston Street where I made more
striking demonstrations, in many instances actually transmitting
the whole motive energy to the devices instead of simply controlling
the same from a distance. . . . [Nikola Tesla — Guided Weapons
& Computer Technology, pp. 227-229.]
In the article "Nikola
Tesla Tells How We May Fly Eight Miles High at 1,000 Miles an Hour"
(Reconstruction, July 1919) he spoke about a possible
technological revolution in the transmission
of propulsive power to aircraft "through the air."
For years I have advocated my system of wireless transmission of power which is now perfectly practicable and I am looking confidently to its adoption and further development.
In the system I have developed, distance is of absolutely no consequence.
That is to say, a Zeppelin vessel would receive the same power whether it was 12,000 miles away or immediately above the
power plant. The application of wireless power for aerial propulsion will do away with a great deal of complication and waste, and it is difficult to imagine that a more perfect means will ever be found to transport human beings to great distances economically.
The power supply is virtually unlimited, as any number of power plants can be operated together, supplying energy to airships just as trains running on tracks are now supplied with electrical energy through rails or wires.
The transmission of power by wireless will do away with the present necessity for carrying fuel on the airplane or airship.
The motors of the plane or airship will be energized by this transmitted power, and there will be no such thing as a limitation on their radius of action, since they can pick up power at any point on the globe.
The advance of science to this point, however, is attended with terrible risks for the world.
We are facing a condition that is positively appalling if we ever permit warfare to invade the earth again.
For up to the present war the main destructive force was provided by guns which are limited by the size of the projectile and the distance it can be thrown.
In the future nations will fight each other thousands of miles apart.
No soldier will see his enemy. In fact future war will not be conducted by men directly but by the forces which if let loose may well destroy civilization completely.
If war comes again, I look for the extensive use of self-propelled air vehicles carrying enormous charges of explosive which will be sent from any point to another to do their destructive work, with no human being aboard to guide them. The distance to which they can be sent is practically unlimited and the amount of explosive they can carry is likewise practically unlimited.
It is practicable to send such an air vessel say to a distance of four or five thousand miles and so control its course either gyroscopically or electrically that it will land at the exact spot where it is intended to have it land, within a few feet, and its cargo of explosive can there be detonated.
"This cannot be done by means of the present wireless plants, but with a proper plant it can be done. and we have here the
appalling prospect of a war between nations at a distance of thousands of miles, with weapons so destructive and demoralizing that the world could not endure
them. That is why there must be no more war."
In the article
Tesla Predicts Ships Powered by Shore
Beam (New York Herald Tribune, May 5, 1935) he spoke about the transmission
of propulsive power to ships at sea "through the stratosphere."
The principles of this
high tension power, generated by shore plants and transmitted through
the upper reaches of the air, illuminating the sky, turning night into
day and at the same time supplying power, have occupied Dr. Tesla's
attention on and off now for the past thirty-five years. . . .
"There is a method of conveying great power to ships at sea which
would be able to propel them across oceans at high speed. . . .
"The principle is this. A ray of great ionizing power is
used to give to the atmosphere great powers of conduction. A
high tension current of 10,000,000 to 12,000,000 volts is then passed
along the ray to the upper strata of the air, which strata can be
broken down very readily and will conduct electricity very well.
"A ship would have to have equipment for producing a similar
ionizing ray. The current which has passed through the
stratosphere will strike this ray, travel down it and pass into the
engines which propel the ship."
An article appearing in the New York Daily News, April 2, 1934 titled "Tesla's
Wireless Power Dream Nears Reality" mentions the planned "test run
of a motor car [for a distance of 30 or 40 miles] over a stretch of [Atchison,
Topeka and Santa Fe] railway track [running from Boise City, Oklahoma] to Farley, N. M." using wireless transmission of electrical
energy to power the vehicle. The equipment was assembled by
"two Californians" and is described as "including a
high-powered radio transmitter with big coils and and short
According to Arthur Mathews,
Tesla himself demonstrated the wireless transmission of electrical
energy just prior to this. The transmitter, described as a
recreation of the Colorado Springs transformer, was assembled at a large camp in the woods near
Sanford, Quebec, Canada. The power supply was a gasoline-motor driven 75 KW generator.
Wireless energy transmission was demonstrated between Sanford and
Tadoussac, a distance of about 120 miles. The distance between Buffalo,
New York and the Sanford transmitter site is about 425 miles.
the wireless transmission of electrical energy between Sanford and Tadoussac on the Saint Lawrence River, a distance
of about 120 miles.
Also, there is a report
by the late Andrija Puharich.
It—s not generally known, but Tesla actually had two huge magnifying transmitters built in Canada, and
[Arthur] Mathews operated one of them. . . . People mostly know about the Colorado Springs transmitters and the unfinished one on Long Island.
I saw the two Canadian transmitters. All the evidence is there. .
In 1922 Tesla spoke about
the application of wireless transmission to transportation systems.
Question : Will not wireless transmission of energy result in time in the moving of practically all means of transportation with electrical energy from central power stations?
MR. TESLA : No, I do not expect that such will be the case, for the transportation systems now used present certain important practical advantages which cannot be disregarded.
Question: Will not automobiles, for instance, be operated merely by the operative "cutting in" on electrical energy supplied by wireless from power stations?
MR. TESLA : I fear we shall not live to see the wireless system in general use for this purpose.
It is difficult to propel an automobile by the new method for reasons with which experts are familiar. Success can be much more easily achieved in the case of airships.
In time to come it is possible that some form of automobile may be perfected that will enable this propulsion of such vehicles to be effected by power drawn from the ambient medium.
[Glass, J. P. , "Tremendous Possibilities of Radio, An Interview With Nikola Tesla,"
Radio News, November 1922.]
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