The image of the garbage-burning DeLorean from Back to the Future II is iconic for the 80s, but despite efforts, as of yet, no one has managed to make a car actually run on trash. The Denver Zoo is coming closer, though, with a new-found power source that is a little bit surprising — the zoo’s engineers have found a way to run a tuk-tuk on animal poo.
Having many animals and many visitors, the Denver Zoo also has to deal with disposing of a lot of organic waste; thousands and thousands of pounds a year. Its first foray into poo as fuel was with a margarita machine, which presumably made perfectly drinkable margaritas. Then the folks at the zoo really got creative.
Tuk-Tuks For The Win
A tuk-tuk is a sort of motorized cart, and if you do not find it as awesome as I do, I shall quietly weep for you. It’s a cute little fuel-efficient way to get around, with three wheels for extra fun. Of course, despite using as little fuel as they do, tuk-tuks still need something to get around. One fuel-efficient three-wheeler plus a desire on the part of the Denver Zoo engineers to prove that they weren’t completely insane equals a very unique little vehicle.
The zoo’s power source is certainly one way around expensive electric battery packs; as reported by the Denver Post, one engineer was quite insistent that their research makes perfect sense:
“We want to show people that we’re not crazy for wanting to take elephant poop and turn it into energy.”
Well, I think they’re quite sane and even reasonable. The poo gets turned into pellets. When heated, the pellets produce syngas. The gas drives a generator, and the generator powers the tuk-tuk’s battery. If that sounds complicated, don’t worry; the take-away is that the poo-powered tuk-tuk is clean, quiet, and odor-free.
Potentially, a use for larger vehicles in the future? Given the increasing population of the Earth and the finite amount of both fossil fuels, and also room to store waste, I definitely think so — but what about you? Let us know what you think in the comments below!
Charis Michelsen spent 7 years living in Germany and Japan, studying both languages extensively, doing translation and education with companies like Bosch, Nissin, Fuji Heavy, and others. Charis has a Bachelor of Science degree in biology and currently lives in Chicago, Illinois. She also believes that Janeway was the best Star Trek Captain.