The race to manufacture more energy efficient automobiles is in high gear. Plenty of automotive experts believe the internal combustion engine would suffice if only gas mileage standards were higher. Hybrids like the Toyota Prius are catching on, though concern over the environmental effects of extracting rare metals like neodymium for those cars’ batteries are an issue to some. Now plug-in hybrid vehicles like the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt show promise, though a shift in infrastructure is needed for these to take off.
A team of engineers in the United Kingdom believe they have developed a different type of hybrid vehicle that could help solve the riddle of over-reliance on fossil fuels. Such a car could be truly sustainable because it relies on a fuel source that is truly renewable. So now if you think I am full of crap, I have to disclose that it’s not me, but the car: GENeco has introduced the Bio-Bug, which can run on methane gas generated from human waste.
GENeco has already established itself in England through its development of a sewage treatment plant that turns sewage into nutrient-rich fertilizer. Now the company has gone a step further with its engineer’s retrofitting of a VW Bug.
The Bio-Bug for now is a flex-fuel 2-liter Volkswagen Beetle convertible that GENeco’s engineers modified to run on conventional gasoline. The engine can switch to compressed bio-methane when the engine, in lead engineer Mohammed Saddiq’s words, is “up to temperature.” If the methane tank runs out, the car just flips back to running on gasoline again. According to GENeco, drivers do not notice any difference in performance, and no, the car does not eke out any acrid scent.
So is this the future of “eco-friendly” motoring (as if there is a such thing)? First, do the math. GENeco claims 70 homes flushing for a year can power one Bio-Bug for 10,000 miles, which is the average annual mileage for a UK motorist. England has about 20 million homes. A market is possible, but a reliable fuel distribution network is a huge hurdle. Like other alternative motor fuels from compressed natural gas to dimethyl ether to even hydrogen, bio-methane could gain acceptance as a fuel for auto fleets or buses, which need a centralized location for refueling.
Then there exists the matter of consumers willing to say “my car runs on poop,” though that is why creative marketers thrive.