Stink Bug: VW Beetle Powered By Human Waste Makes Debut

Bio-Bug

Electric cars seem downright inefficient compared to the Bio-Bug, a VW Beetle rigged to run on biogas, or methane gas generated from human waste during the sewage treatment process. The Beetle, designed by British sustainable energy company GENeco, performs like a regular car—except it can take compressed methane gas in the tank along with regular gasoline.

At first glance, the Beetle appears to be a publicity stunt for GENeco, which owns a number of waste treatment sites in the U.K. But consider this: A single sewage treatment plant in Bristol, England generates 18 million cubic meters of biogas each year. The Bio-Bug squeezes out 5.3 miles per cubic meter of biogas. So just one sewage treatment plant could keep cars running for 5,400,000 miles each year, according to the British Daily Mail.

Bio-Bug

So why don't all of our vehicles run on biogas? Compressed natural gas is used extensively in some U.S. states—California, for example, has 90 public fueling stations in the Southern half of the state. But while federal tax credits are available for new CNG vehicles, the conversion process requires a certificate from the EPA: one that costs up to $50,000.

But the biggest reason that CNG vehicles often fly under the radar is a lack of public awareness. Stunts like the Bio-Bug could at least start to change that.

Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by email.

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4 Comments

  • Michael VIncent

    The car still emits CO2 so I don't see what the big deal is. Great, we no longer are dependent on foreign oil but we still need to reduce CO2 emissions.

  • Captain Chaos

    I recall an issue of Road & Track from the early nineties (92-93?) that highlighted the benefit of using methane to power cars. Everyone blew their mind over how electric cars would save the planet, (total load of bogus info) while these cars stood to be the real heroes.
    The cars in the issue were a handful of supercars that were fitted with conversion kits, which could easily convert between conventional gasoline and methane gas. How great right? Reduce methane while you drive and if you can't find a methane station, switch back to good ol' gas. The other major benefit was that the cars had virtually the same performance on both fuels. If my memory serves me right, gasoline had a very small performance edge.
    This seemed far superior to the electric car that simply moves the pollution from the car to the power plant, most of which are coal. How the tree hugger crowd has not embraced this tech is beyond me. While not a new technology, it's a far better option in my book than all-electric cars and it seemed to be far ahead of it's time. Perhaps people will get on board this time around. The real potential here is in the possibility that conversion kits could retrofit older or recently purchased cars.

  • kaveh

    Move on people; there is not much to read here. Methane Powered Cars have been around for years. This is just another car. The title is very misleading.

  • AC

    I remember people saying that type of thing about the iPod when it came out. Nothing new, just another mp3 player! Did you read the article? The car is no big deal, the company's methane capture is pretty sweet however... One sewage plant = 5.4 million miles/year, assuming 10k miles/year/car thats 540 cars off of middle east gasoline, sounds good to me.

    UPDATE - - - - - - - - -
    Hard to find out how many treatment plants there are in the USA, however there are 19,000 municipal governments, assuming each municipality has 1 plant and each plant captured free-ish methane then 10,260,000 cars are off of Saudi oil... sounds great.