UK Utility Showcases Poo-Powered VW Bug

Here at EarthTechling, we’ve covered cars that run on electricity, biofuels, hydrogen, even the rays of the sun–but this would have to be the first that runs on human waste. That’s right, the UK’s Bio-Bug runs on nothing more than methane gas, generated during the sewage treatment process.  Talk about an abundant resource.

This innovative vehicle was developed by  GENeco, a company owned by a utility called Wessex Water, with support from the South West Regional Development Agency. Specialized equipment was used to treat gas generated at Bristol sewage treatment plant in Avonmouth to provide power to the vehicle, a Volkswagen Beetle, which was converted by the Bath-based Greenfuel Company to run on biogas. Local students came up with the design for the car.

GENeco-BioBug

image via Wessex Water

Mohammed Saddiq, GENeco’s general manager, said, in a statement: “They thought it would be appropriate that the poo-powered car should be the classic VW Beetle Bug because bugs naturally breakdown waste at sewage works to start the treatment process which goes on to produce the energy.”  He added that he was confident that methane from sewage sludge could be used as an alternative energy source for powering company vehicles.

Wessex Water already uses methane generated by their sewage treatment plant in Bristol to produce biogas to generate electricity to power the site and export to the UK’s National Grid. The BioBug is being presented as a sustainable alternative to using fossil fuels for transportation, and a concept for what can be done with excess methane. “On first hearing of the Bio-Bug, some people will smile, and some people will go ‘yuck’!” said Jonathon Porrit, founder and director of Forum for the Future, in a statement. “Either way, what I hope they realize is that this is exactly the kind of innovation we now need for a more sustainable world – and those directly involved should be proud they’re making a small but significant contribution to it everyday!” Waste flushed down the toilets of just 70 homes in Bristol is enough to power the Bio-Bug for a year, based on an annual mileage of 10,000 miles.

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Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.