Engineers from GENeco, a sustainable-energy company owned by Wessex Water, has unveiled a modified Volkswagen Beetle that runs on compressed methane gas extracted from human waste. A Dung Beetle, if you will.
Biogas is generated when filth from Wessex Water's sewage works is put into a decomposition container, where oxygen-starved bacteria break it down to produce methane. The methane is then harvested and placed in tanks inside the boot of the Beetle, where it can be used to power the car's slightly modified engine.
As well as tanks of eggy whiff, the Beetle has a standard petrol tank containing unleaded petrol. The latter is used to start the engine before all systems are up to temperature, before the methane gas takes over. Once the methane is used up, the engine reverts to using unleaded petrol.
The waste from 70 homes can generate enough gas to run the car for 10,000 miles, according to engineers at GENeco. The car still produces carbon dioxide -- 3 tonnes in an average year instead of the conventional car's 3.5 tonnes -- but it's almost entirely carbon neutral, since all of that carbon would have been released into the atmosphere anyway in the form of methane (CH4).
GENeco claims the filth-fuelled Bug runs exactly like a normal Beetle -- and fortunately doesn't smell at all. Previous methane-powered cars suffered noticeable performance drops due to the fuel not being clean enough, but its advanced methods produce a purer fuel that helps the Beetle run pretty much as standard.
Biogas power is nothing new. Fuel extracted from cattle dung has already replaced cooking fuel in many homes in third-world countries. Sweden has also had success testing biogas-powered buses and passenger trains.
Assuming the poo-powered Beetle trial is successful, GENeco plans to convert its fleet of vehicles, but is this a good idea? How do you feel about this technology in comparison to electric vehicles and hybrids? Would you approve of your poo being used to drive someone else's car? Let us know what do you think of this story in the comments below.