In perhaps the most novel twist yet on the alternative fuel theme, a British firm has created a Volkswagen Beetle that can run on high-quality methane gas generated from a virtually inexhaustible source: human waste. Created by The Greenfuel Company for GENeco, the Bio-Bug is only a one-off for the moment. However, if results of the trials currently underway prove successful, GENeco's parent firm, Wessex Water, plans to convert the rest of its company fleet to run on this biofuel, as well.
According to GENeco, it takes roughly 70 household worth of waste to provide enough biomethane to operate one typical vehicle for 10,000 miles, although the firm also says it plans to start using food waste as a readily available supplemental source. The methane is generated by a form of anaerobic digestion -- a process that uses insects to break down biodegradable materials in the absence of oxygen. Wessex Water currently is making about 18 million cubic meters of methane from sewage sludge processed at its facility in Bristol, and GENeco's general manager, Mohammed Saddiq, sees it as a genuinely viable alternative to petroleum dependency -- and one that significantly lowers CO2 emissions to atmosphere. GENeco says the biomethane produced at this plant alone accounts for a reduction of some 19,000 tons of that greenhouse gas annually. GENeco has been making biogas for many years and currently uses it to help generate electricity for the National Grid.
According to Saddiq, one of the key upsides of the methane biogas GENeco produces is its relative purity. By removing much of the performance-degrading CO2 found in less-refined methane, GENeco's premium product allows vehicles to perform virtually the same as they would on gasoline. That also includes the absence of any perceptible exhaust odor. In fact, the Bio-Bug actually is a dual-fuel exercise that burns gasoline until the engine reaches full operating temperature and then it switches over to biomethane. When that cleaner, greener fuel is depleted, the system transparently switches back over to gasoline.