With all the news about green technology and alternative fuel vehicles, I decided to do some research into some of the more bizarre concepts that have been hailed as “Miracle Cars”.
The Water Car: The first patents for the water car appeared in the early 1970s. By the 1990s, inventor Stan Meyer made news with his water-powered dune buggy and then suffered an untimely death. Other than that, there have been a lot of unsubstantiated claims and few results. The technology is rather simple: water molecules are separated into oxygen and hydrogen though electrolysis, and the hydrogen is burned directly in the engine. Some versions require distilled water and baking soda and other versions claim they can even burn sea water. Science says that the process is more elaborate than claimed by water car supporters and that the energy required is more than the energy created.
Verdict: Until I see a working version close up I’ll put this down as an urban legend.
The Air Car: There are many different prototypes for the Air Car, but the most promising is being developed by French company Motor Development International SA (MDI) in conjunction with Tata Motors. The concept: air is compressed in a tank and injected into the engine to move the pistons. A generator refills the air tank. That’s about it. There are many obvious advantages but also some serious disadvantages, including safety and loss of compression and energy through system cooling.
Verdict: Tata Motors put $30 million dollars into the company so I think this is absolutely true. However, I don’t see this as much more than a “boutique alternative” to gasoline power.
The Chocolate Car: Believe it or not there is a group of students from the University of Warwick in Britain that are building a Formula Three car that runs on 30 percent biodiesel derived from chocolate waste. The steering wheel is partly made from carrots, and other parts are made from potato starch and flax fibers.
Verdict: It might work, but will chocolate fuel make the car fat?
The Poop Car: When I say this car is crap, I only mean the fuel. The poop car will use a process called “pyrolysis” to convert used diapers into a mix of gas, oil, and char. A company called AMEC from Canada is planning on converting 180 million dirty diapers into 11 million liters of diesel. Considering diapers can take up to 100 years to decompose, it’s a better option than dumping them in a landfill.
Verdict: If nothing else, having a car powered by poop will discourage anyone from siphoning your fuel.
Everything Else: Here are some of the weird things you can use to create biodiesel--sugar cane waste, road side grasses, turkey guts, coffee grinds, human fat from liposuctions, sawdust, nuts, Styrofoam cups, dead pets, and even algae. Companies and universities around the world are developing new ways to create biodiesel on a small scale. The question is if these technologies can be ramped up on a large scale, remain viable and become profitable.
Verdict: By combining all these technologies, landfill usage and waste could be decreased. The result could be a greener planet, or at least a less brown one.