Powering Your Motor With More Than Fossils

Posted on 30 August 2017 by CarTakeBack

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Alternatives to fossil fuels are being developed and refined at a fast pace as the focus on the environmental impact of vehicles continues. We all know about electric vehicles, but have you heard about these other methods of powering our cars that are being developed? This is what scientists are working on across the globe, and there are a few surprises!


Researchers at the University of West England, Bristol, have developed a way of turning human wee into electricity! They first installed a urinal unit at Glastonbury Festival in 2015, to collect the pee of festival goers. They used a Microbial Fuel Cell (MFC) system, which uses the metabolic process of microorganisms to create energy, to turn the urine into enough energy to light the stalls with LEDs! The technology is still in its infancy, so currently it takes around 100 Glastonbury party-goes to fully charge a Tesla Model X, but the team say that the MFC is currently only working at 60% efficiency. With the microorganisms in the wee being 96% efficient, there is a lot of room for improvement.

Collecting pee at Glastonbury to power cars!

Image credit: University Of West England


With all the focus on electric vehicles at the moment, it's interesting when another method of powering a car comes to light. The AIRPod is currently in the works, and boasts being a "zero pollution vehicle", because it runs on compressed air! It has a top speed of 50 mph, and an 80-mile range. But as it only takes five minutes to refuel, using any petrol station tyre pump, this could be the fuel of the future.

Cars powered by compressed air

Image copyright: MDI


Where else could this fuel be debuted but Scotland! Celtic Renewables Ltd, a company coming from Edinburgh Napier University, worked with Tullibardine Distillery to create a fuel that is a direct replacement of petrol and diesel using the yeast-based by-product from distilling and fermenting the whisky. The Biobutanol doesn't even require the car to be adapted, it can be put straight into the fuel tank.

whisky to power a car

The first car journey using the fuel in July this year was a success, and Celtic Renewables Ltd has just received a £9m grant from the government to build a plant to develop the fuel, which they hope will be up and running by 2019.


Poo-powered car projects are surprisingly popular! Back in 2010 a poo-powered Volkswagen Beetle took to the streets of Bristol, UK. Affectionately known as the Bio-Bug, it runs on the methane gas that is generated as part of the treatment for raw sewage. Wessex Water have been using the biogas from the sewerage treatment to generate electricity to power their site for many years, and they decided to import specialist cleaning equipment to treat the excess gas they have, removing the carbon dioxide to create a sustainable alternative to fossil fuels to power cars. They estimate the yearly waste from 70 households could create enough fuel to run the Bio-Bug for 10,000 miles!

Poo powered car in Bristol, UK

Image credit: GENeco

More recently, the sewerage treatment company in Brisbane, Queensland Urban Utilities, is now using the biogas from their plants to power one of their fleet alongside their two plants, and hope to run more of their fleet on the fuel in the future.


Car manufacturer Audi have developed a synthetic fuel, which they call 'e-benzin'. The fuel is made by converting glucose derived from corn into isobutane gas. The team working with Audi say the fuel can be used as a fuel on its own, or as an additive to unleaded petrol to make it more efficient. As e-benzin contains no sulphur or benzene it burns very cleanly.

Fuel for cars made with sugar

Image credit: Audi/Global Bioenergies

If you are swapping out your old fossil fuel powered car for something with a more efficient engine, (maybe not the Bio-Bug just yet!), find out how much you can get for it using our instant online quote service:

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