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back to article 'Poo-powered' Volkswagen astounds world+dog

The UK and green media is alive with reports of a "poo powered" car, dubbed the "Bio-Bug", developed to encourage sustainable motoring. But what's the real story? The GENeco Bio-Bug CNG fuelled Beetle. Credit: Wessex Water Plenty of grunt (etc). "On first hearing of the Bio-Bug, some people will smile, and some people will go …

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Happy

Arf.

"Biomethane cars could be just as important as electric cars."

How very true.

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Top Gear did it first

Season 4 Episode 6, Hammond tested methane from cow and human poo

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Stop

Indeed they did!

And it was a cracking episode that came to much the same conclusion as the El Reg journo.

It's a decent idea, about as sustainable (there'll always be poo!) and environmentally friendly as you can get (unless you can run 'leccy cars on zero-point energy.)

Sadly though, it'll never take off except on a small scale because the numbers don't stack up. Brilliant for the small number of fleet vehicles at places like this, useless for almost everyone else.

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Go

Full of it

That cars full of cr4p!

I for one welcome our poo-car driving overlords.

I'll get me coat. It's the brown one with some suspect smelling stains on it.

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nah

What better car to pick to be powered by shit.

Shit Idea

Shit Design

Shit Build

Shit handling

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Anonymous Coward

But think of the name

The new VW Dung Beetle

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IT Angle

title req?

No financial reason to sell it back to the gas grid, its far more viable to buy the kit, turn the CNG into leccy then sell it to the leccy grid. Once the government gets its arse into gear and gives the same incentives to gas producers as it does to leccy producers then maybe things will change.

AC, cause of the company I work for...

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Coat

It'll need more than just the government

to get it's arse into gear.

Everyone will have to, if this is going to use shit nation-wide.

I'm going

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Bad idea

Biogas outside specialised plants that burn it on the spot is a bad idea. It has lots of sulfur containing impurities starting from plain old hydrogen sulfide and going to mercaptanes and other organic stuff. Anything burning this is bound to produce nasty toxic and acidic fumes. It is possible to deal with these on a fixed installation. Dealing with it in a vehicle is not something which anyone has figured out.

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Other poo?

I probably won't be the first to mention this, but if puny humans can only muster up less than 1% per head (or botty) to fuel a car, what about livestock? Does every kg of cow, sheep, goat, haggis poo go towards slurry and fertilizer? Could we not use some of it to create more fuel?

Just a thought..

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My thoughts exactly...

but do you want to be the one attaching the colostomy bags to all those cows to collect what they'd otherwise leave behind in the fields?

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most livestock poo is already collected

Just let the stuff they do outdoors on grass fertilise it in the time honoured fashion. Most livestock bred for meat are kept indoors and most animals which are on pasture during the summer are fed indoors through the winter. So no extra cost to collect, given indoor livestock have to be mucked out regularly anyway. Then there is the time the dairy herd on pasture are in the milking parlour, which also has to be mucked out very regularly.

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Feed lots

Feed lots already collect quite a lot of manure (think small mountains,) but seeing as how they already sell it for a profit as fertilizer, it might not be the cheapest source of a tiny bit of CNG.

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Flame

But fertiliser is nitrogen and phorphorus...

the sludge from the fermentation vessel will still contain most of that, so you still get fertiliser to sell. You're simply splitting the energy-rich molecules from the N and P rich molecules.

icon - insert joke about igniting biogas here.

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Waste of time

The reality is, the only viable long-term solution to our energy problems is nuclear fusion. In the meantime, we may as well convert our transport infrastructure to all electric so we're ready when the reactors finally come online.

My preferred vision of the future is for vehicles to use electric motors, running from hydrogen fuel cells, generated by electrolysis powered by nuclear fusion.

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Coat

McFly - pass me that banana skin

Does this mean that portable powerstations fired by *ahem* organic matter will soon be fitted behind the seats of deLoreans?

It's bad enough following chip-shop smelling fat-burners

I'll get me coat coz I'd rather walk there

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Anonymous Coward

..hey, I've got one too!

Bootnote

*Page is a standard <insert derogatory generic stereotype here> : pro-nuclear, enamoured by the arms race (that he ignores the absence of taxpayer VFM), in favour of economic growth (even if unsustainable/detrimental long term ), and apparently dismissive of any technology that doesn't *single handedly* resolve a problem which he's only recently conceded to exist.

Although, strangely for the sake of this argument... pro-electric cars.

FYI, by virtue of the carbon cycle all fossil fuel is, or was at one time: animal corpses, shit and compost.

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Dead Vulture

"hard green type"

Hmm.

"intensely anti-nuclear"

If that means Trident, then good-oh. Pointless exercise, spunking billions just so we could kill half of Russia's civilians after a hypothetical nuclear strike from a country that can't any more put any kind of well-equipped army in the field.

If that means power stations, then only half bad. I'm pro-nuclear-power myself, but anti-nuclear-establishment, since the safety record at these places is worryingly poor.

"against economic growth"

Nothing wrong with economic growth. But there's a lot wrong with an economic model which as its basic assumption states that economic growth will continue forever in every country across the whole world, and insists that limiting factors such as social uplift (and consequent increased wages) in poorer countries and shortage of readily-available raw materials simply don't exist.

"considers solar power worthwhile in the UK climate"

Any reason why it isn't? We're not the hottest place in the world, but we're not too badly off for sunshine - we've not got the biggest mountains either, but hydro still works out for us. Sure it's not currently cost-effective, but get solar panels efficient enough and cheap enough, and it could easily be worthwhile.

Wonder who wrote this? Oh yes - Lewis. What a surprise. Not.

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Latitude

"""Any reason why it isn't? We're not the hottest place in the world, but we're not too badly off for sunshine"""

It's not the hours of sun per day that's the issue, it's the intensity of the shining. As the UK is at a rather high latitude, you get rather weak sunlight at the best of times, add in the clouds and the extremely short winter days (when you need /more/ electricity,) and you're better off spending your money on other renewable energy sources.

Just keep in mind that your annual solar energy per unit area is around 1/10th what you'd get in the Nevada desert, so when solar is cost effective for your country, it would have probably already been cheaper to generate a bit extra in a handy equatorial desert and install some big cables. That may sound impracticle, but it's more economically viable than UK solar. And you still get no power at night.

"""we've not got the biggest mountains either, but hydro still works out for us."""

Could be more to do with the quantity of rain you get - you don't need a mountain any higher than the height of the largest damn you're willing to build, where dam height dictates how much peak energy you can pull out of the water. But rainfall is where that energy comes from, untimately, not mountains.

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CT

Monty Python flashback

"Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Association (ADBA) Chairman Lord Rupert Redesdale"

sounds like an interviewee on a too silly Monty Python sketch. (Nothing personal Lord Rupert, I don't suppose you chose the name)

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Coat

Surely this should be called...

The Dung Beetle?!

Mines the one with poo in the pocket.

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Re : "Surely this should be called... The Dung Beetle?!"

Ummm. It is.

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Go

Just build a fertiliser plant

You only need methane, air and water to make ammonium nitrate.

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Go

In India...

...in a state called Gujrat, practically the entire state runs on CNG. However, don't know the SOURCE for it...

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M7S
Bronze badge
Coat

Does anyone use 1970's slang anymore?

As if they did, for speeding it would be pulled over by....

...the Filth.

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Grenade

In any case...

Could we please have the boot notes for a page on the page that they referring to? I know others have asked but I live in hope :)

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solar power is great....

for the calculator on my desk.........that porridge bloke needs wiring up to the national grid for a good few minutes, what a bright spark.

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FAIL

How do you connect it to your toilet?

Especially if you have to park your car in the road.

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So it gets read of crap - and we get something useful in exchange

This is nothing new - it has been around for a while. Even during WWII various countries (including Britain) were producing natural gas on small scale to power vehicles and other machinery. Small biogas home digesters seem to be very popular in India and other countries in warmer climates. Search the web for "kristianstad biogas" and see an example of a large scale application of biogas use in Sweden - where the biological waste of an entire city (including recyclable rubbish) is used to produce biogas for electricity, heat and transportation.

OK - it seems that there isn't enough of it to replace a significantly large proportion of our energy use. But I suggest a different way of looking at it. This is crap that we don't want, don't need and it costs us money to get rid of (including any compost type material from household waste). This process will turn it into a form of energy which can be used in various forms (electricity production, heat production, transport) in the local economy. That, plus perfectly harmless liquid fertilizer at the end of the process - which can be used straight away by the agriculture in the fields. How can that be bad? Maybe it's not as profitable as oil, but we are talking about a process which happens here, in the local economy. Not buying energy in various forms from foreign countries.

If we assume that financially it is barely paying for itself - when you factor in the fact that it also keeps wealth in the national economy, it has positive ecological impact, it generates some employment locally and it gets rid of stuff we have no need for - that surely adds up to something more then desireable.

And to the above poster - it is true that raw biogas comes with sulphur componds in various forms - but it seems that this can be solved at the production point using not very complicated or expensive (industrially speaking) biogas scrubbing methods. Just see google.

I don't understand why so much opposition.

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<title>

Definitely nothing new - this was talked about when I worked for Wessex Water back before it was privatised.

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VIZ Jizz Whizz Biz

This is one small but important step towards achieving Mickey's Monkey Spunk Moped.

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Yes, but

In one of Mickey's earlier adventures he had to stop using monkey spunk to power his moped (the judge ruled it illegal). IIRC in the last frame of the cartoon he was parked up outside a zoo asking one of the keepers if they had any leopards' fanny batter!

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Other poo.....

Actually there are conversions available for slurry/fertiliser plants which allow them to bottle the excess gas produced or use it in generators etc.

Again though there is the lack of financial incentive for the hughely expensive kit to be used even on larger scale sites. It is being trialled in several areas though.

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Why it's important

It's important because it's being discussed on news sites, and smart people are getting ideas.

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Coat

come on guys...

please don't be to quick to poo poo the idea!

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How many TPM?

How many TPM (Turds per Mile) does it do?

It had to be said - "Save gas, fart in a bottle"

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Boffin

A POS car

Powered by other POS's. All as a PR stunt. I feel so green.

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I seem to remember

When I was a kid Blue Peter or Tommorws World (date myself, why not) did a piece on London Taxis powered by gas from the top of the sewers.

It seems a good idea to me. Even if not all cars can be powered this way if some can thats good. I mean currently cars have petrol, diesel, gas, chip pan oil, batteries.. a right mix, why not add another into it?

I would rather be putting gas from the top of a sewer in the car than petrol any day of the week :)

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Grenade

At last

this will put an end to syphoning.....unless your brave.....or sick!

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or

..You're Mark Oaten

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Happy

Aachi & Ssipak

Aachi & Ssipak is a very good film dealing with this subject.

Synopsis:

Sometime in the future, mankind has depleted all energy and fuel sources, however they have somehow engineered a way to use human excrement as fuel. To reward production, the government hands out extremely addictive, popsicle-like "Juicybars", which in turn also act as a laxative. Aachi and Ssipak are street hoodlums who struggle to survive by trading black market Juicybars. Through a chain of events involving their porn-director acquaintance Jimmy the Freak, they meet wannabe-actress Beautiful, whose defecations are rewarded by exceptional quantities of Juicybars. For that reason, Beautiful is also wanted by the violent blue mutants known as the Diaper Gang (led by the Diaper King), the police (most notably the cyborg police officer Geko), and others.

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wow thanks!

This sounds like the best film ever, I'm not being sarcastic, seriously, this is right up my street it sounds bloody hilarious! Thanks for telling us about it!

I cannot find it for sale on amazon though :o(

Thanks again!

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Good for communists bad for capitalists

70 households poop to run one car?

So one in 70 households can run a car? Sounds like communist russia where only the political elites had the good stuff, the rest just made do with vodka.

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Laterally thinking ..

.... seating styled by Armitage-Shanks perhaps?

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JJS
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When are they going to realize...

...that they're just polishing a turd?

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Nothing New

Methane from "natural" sources has been used for decades to fuel various engines. Problem is the economies of scale are not there so they've been oddities and very small scale ventures. Never has been a force and never will be in the near future. Give it 500 years when all coal reserves are fully depleted and it might actually become something.

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Anonymous Coward

Now don't be flingin' poo without cause

"The Tesla Roadster, for instance, takes 48 hours to charge up from a standard US wall socket."

Yes, well, el reg doesn't run at all on standard US wall sockets. On a 230V system, that'd be only 24 hours then? And besides, if it's ok to pave the entire country with motorways in the name of individual transportation and plunk refueling stations everywhere for those fossil fuel gurgling cars, I don't see why it wouldn't be acceptable to put a 3phase sockets at strategic points everywhere.

I'll buy the "won't scale" argument, but I'm not sure we should blame the people who run the plant. It's probably more worthwhile to think of better governmental encouragement strategies. Instead of subsidies, make it cheap loans, or something. But then the banks will bitch about undercutting in a market they wouldn't themselves fund because it doesn't bring enough fat bonuses. Oh well.

Still and all, on balance I like it as it's a relatively benign waste (if that) of taxpayer money and we could learn something from it -- we'd better make sure we do. In fact, we should actively look for ways to improve our processes and harvest energy that otherwise would be wasted, at least where it makes sense to do so, not at the cost of everything. But we should push for that far harder that we're doing already, because once we absolutely have to it becomes a frenzied goal in its own right, with systemic stupidity to match.

For example, I see a market for cheap-ish devices that can store a couple petawatthours to level out generation bumps and demand bobs in the grid. That'd smooth over a lot of trouble caused by "renewable generation".

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Standard recharging will be plenty...

...for the vast majority of EV use. Using a full recharge of the Tesla Roadster battery (56kWh) as your example was a little disingenous (no surprise there though).

A 13A socket will deliver 3kW. Let's say charging efficeincy is 90% and you recharge for 6 hours from midnight until 6am in order to reduce the impact on the grid. That gives you 16kWh, enough to take you 100km @ 150Wh/km.

That'll easily cover most commuting needs in both directins but you could always top up at work, again with a standard socket (although paying much more for peak rate electricity). If you drive much more than that you can get a plug in hybrid or a high efficiency diesel.

As for biomethane, we're only going to see it in captive fleets. But there's no harm in demonstrating the technology in a context that everyone understands, i.e. a car. Much better to use the biogas in heat applicatins though as they have much hgher efficiencies than vehicle applications.

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Standard US Recharging is different

UK mains are 200V or 200V or some such?

US are 110V~120V "standard". Then with a 15A circuit you are way behind the 3kW you quoted.

You can get 20A at 115V pretty easily, and any new house now built will come with some 220V plugs for oven, clothes dryer, etc. Not sure if that's usually 15A, could be higher.

So electric car owners in US are told "special equipment" might be needed.... and I assume that's a 220V socket installed in the garage somewhere handy.

The article quoted "US standard" mains so is technically correct

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Silver badge

Well...

In typical El Reg standard it started off with a story of UK poo power and then draws a comparison with charging off a US socket...

In Europe we have 230volts. UK sockets are rated at 13A. So 3kW is easy. The ring main circuit itself is fused to 30A, so some cunning use of several sockets could get you to almost 7kW.

Now if you really want to get clever you need a friendly neighbour. To balance the load across the phases you often find that the phases for the local substation are wired to each single phase house in sequence, so you will have the same phase as the house 3 doors down. NOT the same phase as the house either side of you... So be nice to the neighbour on either side and you can use his live phase and your own (120 degrees out of phase of each other), and tada, 415v :-)

Be warned if you have an earth leakage trip it'll plunge you into darkness!

Please note you should not do this if you don't know what you are doing! If you think 230volts makes you jump, you really don't want to try 415!

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