Zoo Poo Powers Tuk Tuk In Denver

If you thought getting stunk out by car fumes at rush hour was bad enough, be thankful you never got stuck behind the Denver Zoo’s latest set of wheels. The motorized rickshaw is powered by elephant poop and human trash.

Purchased from Thailand, the rickshaw (also known as a Tuk Tuk) has been re-engineered to run on gasified pellets that are made from animal droppings and the trash from the zoo’s human visitors.

Denver Zoo Tuk Tuk

image via Denver Zoo

Believed to be the first hybrid-electric gasified rickshaw in the world, the vehicle is part of a large-scale project by the Denver Zoo to convert all of its animal waste and 90 per cent of its trash to energy. By streaming the waste together, it can be compacted into pellets that can be heated and used to charge batteries and fuel heaters, pumps and other machinery that requires energy.

Tuk Tuk Tour denver zoo

image via Denver Zoo

The conversion of 1.5 million pounds of waste, the zoo says, will offset 20 percent of its total energy consumption. On top of this the zoo claims it will save $150,000 a year that would otherwise be spent on waste removal.

The unique technology was designed and built by three full-time staff at the zoo and is under provisional patent protection.

“Usually when people use the gasification process, they have loads and loads of wood chips, but in our case, it’s really unique because it uses animal poop and human trash,” zoo spokeswoman Tiffany Barnhart told the Denver Post.

Paul Willis has been journalist for a decade. Starting out in Northern England, from where he hails, he worked as a reporter on regional papers before graduating to the cut-throat world of London print media. On the way he spent a year as a correspondent in East Africa, writing about election fraud, drought and an Ethiopian version of American Idol. Since moving to America three years ago he has worked as a freelancer, working for CNN.com and major newspapers in Britain, Australia and North America. He writes on subjects as diverse as travel, media ethics and human evolution. He lives in New York where, in spite of the car fumes and the sometimes eccentric driving habits of the yellow cabs, he rides his bike everywhere.