Is It Possible to Power a Car With Poop?: Full of Crap

Countries and companies have been worrying about the fuel economy of cars for a long time now. As a result, automakers and scientists have experimented with many alternative fuel sources. One of the most popular alternative fuel source vehicles is the EV, but there are a lot of strange options, too. Here’s a look at poop-powered cars, how they work, and whether or not they will be the future of cars.

The many alternative fuel sources out there

High-tech Chinese Trump Toilet products on display in Shanghai
Trump Toilet products on display | JOHANNES EISELE/AFP via Getty Images

Before Tesla burst onto the scene with its famous line of EVs, biofuels were a popular option for solving the world’s transportation issues. There were many advantages to biofuels, such as biodiesel. For instance, one significant benefit was that they could generally run well on some cars without having to change anything about those cars. 

More importantly, though, biofuels are renewable in the sense that we can make more of them. Algae, for example, is currently being grown on farms and then converted into biofuels. That said, while biofuels are cleaner than diesel, burning biofuels will still create emissions. This is largely why clean alternatives, such as electricity or hydrogen fuel cells, have become far more popular over the years.

How a poop-powered car works

There are two ways that a poop-powered car can work. As Fast Company wrote, one way scientists have explored is pretty similar to biofuels. With the help of some genetically-engineered bacteria, scientists can turn poop into a biofuel that has some significant advantages over older types of biofuels.

One issue with biofuels is that putting biofuels into your gas tank can damage your vehicle unless your car can consume it. However, according to Fast Company, poop-fuel won’t have that issue. Additionally, unlike EVs or hydrogen-powered cars, folks won’t have to buy a brand-new vehicle. Poop-fuel should be able to work fine on a regular car. That said, when your car burns that poop-fuel, it should still emit some (rather stinky) emissions.

An alternative to that, according to ABC, is to power an EV with poop. These are regular EVs, but they get their electricity from poop treated at sewage plants. This process apparently produces zero emissions, and it could ultimately save sewage treatment plants a lot of money. A sewage treatment plant in Australia using this process saves about $1.4 million a year in costs. 

Are poop-powered cars full of crap?

That said, while there does seem to be a lot of promise in this smelly technology, it’s unlikely to solve the world’s fuel problems by itself. Off the bat, poop-fuel has several issues. Since it’s a biofuel that can be poured into a gas tank, this particular tech is unlikely to be very useful when the world transitions over to EVs. Additionally, since burning poop-fuel will have tailpipe emissions, it may not be a better alternative to EVs overall.

The idea of turning poop into electricity at sewage plants is a smart option. However, even that has its own issue. While everyone poops, the amount of poop that the world makes is unlikely to be enough to create all the electricity that EVs will need. As such, while this method may be able to provide some EVs with relatively clean energy, it won’t be a long-term solution for the world.

So, poop-powered cars are somewhat full of crap. For cars and vehicles that rely on biofuels, there are other alternative fuel sources that are more readily available. Elsewhere, while sewage plants can provide some clean electricity for EVs, most clean electricity will come from solar, wind, and nuclear instead.

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