• Aug 8, 2010

Methane-powered GENeco Volkswagen Beetle

Methane as a source of automotive propulsion isn't exactly a new concept, but it's taken manufacturers a long time to figure out how to clean it up enough to let it power an engine long-term. GENeco thinks they have figured it out and has presented this Volkswagen Beetle as proof of concept. Dubbed the "Bio-Bug," it basically runs on human excrement – seriously.

This Beetle's 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine has been converted to run on methane gas produced by human excrement and can still top 183 kilometers per hour (about 114 miles per hour). We'll try to avoid any fährt jokes. Methane is essentially similar to compressed natural gas, but has some unique challenges. "Previously the gas hasn't been clean enough to fuel motor vehicles without it affecting performance," said Mohammed Saddiq, the head of GENeco. He added:
However, through using the latest technology our Bio-Bug drives like any conventional car and what's more it uses sustainable fuel. If you were to drive the car you wouldn't know it was powered by biogas as it performs just like any conventional car.
The Bio-Bug actually uses regular unleaded gas on start-up, but switches over to methane automatically once it's running. It was built by England's The Greenfuel Company for GENeco, a division of one of Bristol's largest sewage treatment plant. That plant, Wessex Water, claims that it will take but 70 toilets to power the Bio-Bug for a year.

[Source: GENeco via clutch'd]


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 13 Comments
      • 17 Hours Ago
      Im interrested to buy one (1) of their products.
      • 17 Hours Ago
      Actually... we've had methane powered cars since the 70's:
      http://www.motherearthnews.com/Green-Transporation/1971-07-01/The-Marvelous-Chicken-Powered-Motorcar.aspx

      Some third-world farmers run tractors on methane... and I've seen set-ups where methane straight from the septic tank is pumped to the kitchen stove.

      A methane conversion kit should not cost any more than a propane conversion kit. They just burn a bit differently.

      The real problem is purifying the methane and ensuring consistency enough to keep a modern engine happy (old carbureted mills run just fine). I'm pretty sure there is some cost involved, but if the extra processes are something that can be implemented on a grassroots level, then great!

      Great because a relative owns a farm that's already producing bio-methane. I'm pretty sure they'll agree to selling me fuel at a discount.
      • 17 Hours Ago
      Calculating how many toilets would power a beetle just points up the need for more energy efficient vehicles, (i.e. x-prize, edison2), before you consider new energy sources.

      Also, why not use a Bloom energy stack with an electric motor for power?
      • 17 Hours Ago
      "70 toilets" is rather vague and actually misleading.

      The original document is more clear: "Waste flushed down the toilets of just 70 homes in Bristol is enough to power the Bio-Bug for a year, based on an annual mileage of 10,000 miles."
        • 17 Hours Ago
        Thanks, I was curious about this.
        Unfortunately this still seems rather vague.
        They way the mention the period of a year makes it questionable what the time period is for the 70 homes worth of toilets.

        I am assuming they mean that 70 average home's 'deposits' over a year period will be enough to power the car for 10,000 miles.

        I wonder what the cost is.
        Also - how heavily weighted populations will have to be of non-driving urban-dwellers to make us completely self sustaining.
        Finally - could these numbers be altered if we altered the national diet to include... say... more beans?
        Or - will that cause the cat to be let out of the bag prematurely, as it were?
      • 17 Hours Ago
      "That plant, Wessex Water, claims that it will take but 70 toilets to power the Bio-Bug for a year."

      Sounds great, but I don't have room for 70 toilets!

      (joke)
      • 17 Hours Ago
      Sounds like a great idea - a true example of green idea of recycle / reuse.

      More of a problem is the methane caused by cows is 26 times more effective to producing greenhouse gas emissions than CO2. http://www.physorg.com/news135003243.html

      I have before ponded on the idea of how to capture CO2 from cow emissions (okay farts - now I have said it) not just from the mature. Seems its has been given thought _ I wonder what the latest is? http://www.dailyfinance.com/story/u-s-to-capture-cow-farts-to-reduce-emissions/19283942/

      It is a common green message to eat veg to reduce demand for beef or dairy for that matter. I could never see myself going without beef or dairy entirely - as green as people are - I would probably be save to say that most still eat some form of beef be it as a steak or processed into a cheeseburger or drink milk, eat cheese.

      Further, the methane could be used to generate electricity as another source alternative to coal fired stations. http://www.businessgreen.com/business-green/news/2266512/ukrainian-cows-power-country

      Interesting topic / discussion anyway.
        • 17 Hours Ago
        Actually... raising livestock is beneficial for farmers, because the livestock will not only produce methane that can be captured and used as fuel around the farm (for cooking, sterilizing, machines), but the slurry that comes out of the biodigester can be used as fertilizer to replenish soil that has been depleted by crop-growing. (the big problem with going fully veggie is soil depletion!)

        You don't even have to eat the cows if you don't want to. Raise them as milking cows, instead.

        -

        The big, big, BIG problem with methane production is space. You can make it out of manure and biomass, you can make it out of organic waste, you can make it out of people, ala Soylent Green... but each methane tank requires weeks of storage while the bacteria do their work. So you need a huge amount of space to site tanks with commercial-level output.

        And then there's the pesky explosion problem...
        • 17 Hours Ago
        "And then there's the pesky explosion problem..." yes thats a slight problem :)

        I agree with your comments - of interest to me has been a solution to the problem of capturing the methane from their butts.
      • 17 Hours Ago
      10,000 miles divided by 70 = 140 miles each. That means that each household's daily total 'deposit' could run a car 0.5 miles. Not bad.
      • 17 Hours Ago
      How much will this new source of methane cost? If it's close to being sans chargé since we all contribute freely then it's worth it! Frankly they should pay us to produce it for them as a raw material by making it a public service freely produced for all since all paid for in advance through food pricing!
      Men operate in Space this way by conversion of waste. -- Why not on earth? Huge amounts of this product are available everywhere! Why not take advantage of waste just like any other waste especially when it's widely available almost eternally?
      Excellent followup on existing technical challenges obviously solved.
      To hell with the black demon of oil & it's inherent moronic intoxication & those taking advantage of everyone hooked on it! -- The men who make it & money from it.
      – However it is still interesting how the fuel market seems to revolve back to charging for break through energy when new battery operated hybrids like AFS Trinity are quite reasonable to operate especially if they provide new systems to re-charge batteries while the vehicle is in motion!
      I'm also curious about what new technologies make this form of methane possible.
      Obviously more sensible planners are needed before launching out into the deep like GM & their fiasco the volt entirely over priced with a wasteful lithium battery system. Back to the drawing boards buddy!
      ericnueman

      • 17 Hours Ago
      Ha. I smell BS.
      • 17 Hours Ago
      Argentine research on cow-produced methane illustrates one capture method:

      http://tinyurl.com/337dqmg

      Har!
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