Poo-powered cars have a different kind of gas in the tank

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It sounds like a joke or a stunt, but "poo-powered cars" are not only real, but viable. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Over the years, a number of experiments and prototypes have come about using alternative fuels for cars, including from sustainable sources. Poo-powered cars, technically biogas cars as that’s what they run on, are among the more curious examples, as they run on a gas that occurs virtually everywhere.

Don’t pooh-pooh poo-powered cars

Anyone ever watch “Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome?” In the movie, the protagonist, Mel Gibson, happens upon a corrupt city run by Tina Turner, where electricity and transportation are powered by methane, sourced from pig excrement. Love turns out to have nothing to do with it and hostilities ensue.

Though obviously fiction, the idea of a poo-powered car, technically biogas cars, is not actually that far-fetched. Part of fecal matter is a certain amount of gases, such as methane and biogas, which are hydrocarbon gases. So is natural gas, which is being used as an alternative fuel for cars like the Honda Civic GX, though one can’t buy one at any dealer of Honda, Austin to Wisconsin and all points in between, as it’s only for sale in Utah, California, Oklahoma and New York, according to Honda.

In fact, according to Wired, Hilarides Dairy, a farm in California, started using manure as a source of biomethan in 2009, powering farm equipment and the dairy’s semi-trucks. City buses in Oslo, Norway, according to the BBC, have been running on biogas captured from sewage since 2009.

Not really powered by poo

“Poo-powered cars” aren’t fueled by feces, but rather biogas. The gas is harnessed, according to the BBC, by chemically treating sewage and other waste with bacteria in tanks, which release the gas. The gas is captured, treated for impurities and then compressed into storage tanks.

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It can also be used to create gasified pellets such as in the case, according to Popular Science, of the Denver Zoo’s motorized rickshaw. The zoo is using biodegradable refuse from visitors and what they shovel from the animal’s pens to create the pellets, which are also slated for use in a power plant that will power an upcoming elephant exhibit.

Car voodoo using doo-doo

A recent example of a poo-powered car includes, according to AutoBlog, a trike by a Japanese toilet manufacturer, Toto Ltd., which recently showed off a trike converted to run on biogas, replete with a toilet on the bike, called the “Toilet Bike Neo.” The toilet is not functional.

A few years ago, a Volkswagen Beetle converted to run on biogas from waste called the Bio-Bug got a good amount of press. According to CBS, the car was converted to run on biogas by the Greenfuel Company, which does natural gas conversions, and fuel was provided by Geneco, a waste treatment company. Beetles and other insects are actually part of Geneco’s treatment process, and a group of students suggested the VW “Bug” as the appropriate vehicle.

The car, nicknamed the “dung Beetle” was featured on “Top Gear.” It isn’t in mass production, so don’t look into insurance and auto financing, unless one wants to convert one. Just as with a natural gas car, an aftermarket conversion is also possible.

Sources

AutoBlog

Wired

BBC

CBS: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-501465_162-20012837-501465.html

Popular Science: http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2012-03/denver-zoos-poo-powered-rickshaw-turns-animal-waste-energy

Honda GX: http://automobiles.honda.com/civic-natural-gas/


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