We’ve all joked about having our cup of joe or two to rev up in the morning, but to literally apply our coffee drink as fuel to a vehicle?
Well, that’s what the aptly named “Bean Machine” did earlier this year at the Woodford Airfield in Stockport, Greater Manchester, England. The modified Ford F-100, which is officially called the “Coffee Car” (no surprise there), used coffee chaff pellets as fuel, zipped down the airfield at 65 mph.
Coffee chaff pellets are the byproducts of coffee production. A furnace in the Coffee Car would heat the pellets in a charcoal fire until they broke down into carbon monoxide and hydrogen. This gas mixture is cooled and filtered. The hydrogen is then combusted just like gasoline to drive the truck.
The process is called “gasification” and has been around for nearly two hundred years. According to The Co-operative Food, which sponsored the Bean Machine, there were over 100,000 UK vehicles powered by gasification during World War II, and over 200,000 vehicles worldwide by the start of the twentieth century.
Today, several power plants in the UK still continue to use gasification to generate electricity. Here in the states, a collaboration between the Energy & Environmental Research Center in North Dakota and energy company Wynntryst are looking to generate power from coffee wastes.
The Coffee Car was used by the Co-operative Food to celebrate its involvement with Fairtrade, the socio-economic movement to assist disadvantaged countries in securing fair prices (“fair trade”) for their products, especially in agriculture. Co-operative Food switched over to fairtrade practices ten years ago, and the Coffee Car was designed to commemorate the event.
Engineer and conservationist Martin Bacon drove the Bean Machine on its 65 mph coffee run, which will be entered into the Guinness Book of World Records. Also entering the record books is the truck’s 1600 mile tour as Bacon visited the various Co-operative Food stores around the UK. The trip is the longest ever attempted in a coffee-powered vehicle of any kind.