Tomorrow People

Crystal Ball Gazing: the Future of Alternative Fuels

Blog post   •   Aug 03, 2012 09:07 BST

Fleet managers are finding ever more ingenious ways to reduce fuel costs whether they're setting up driver league tables to drive down fuel consumption or investing in discount fuel cards. In the meantime, boffins the world over continue to try to find CO2-smiting ways to create the perfect sustainable fuel source. Out on the fringes though, there are those investigating more, let's say, unusual ways of generating power to keep all four (or 18) wheels rolling:

Winded wonder

A humble Chinese farmer has seemingly produced one of the world's first working wind-powered cars. Constructed by 55-year-old Tang Zhenping, the bizarre, retro-looking vehicle features a homemade 'turbine' mounted on the front which he claims charges the in-built electric motor mounted in the boot. Said motor is claimed to propel the vehicle to a worryingly fast top speed of 140KMH (about 87MPH).

The inventor hasn't fan-nyed about either, building the prototype in just three months in between milking cows (and subsequently the world's press). Take a look at the evidence yourself and decide if this is the real deal... or just a lot of cold air.

Future Fuel Rating: In the video, why does the fan never actually rotate, even when the vehicle is moving? A sceptical six out of 10...

Pedal instead of metal

An emerging engineering genius has wowed the car world with two eco-powered masterpieces. The first, billed as “the world's slowest Porsche” by its Austrian maker Hannes Langeder, is a full-sized GT3 RS built not from aluminium but from packing tape and gold foil. Out too goes the Porsche's 4-litre flat-six engine and in comes a, erm, man on a bicycle to provide the horsepower (about 40% of a horse, actually).

Not satisfied with such a plebeian runabout though, the artist went on to unveil his Fahrradi Farfalla FFX this year, a replica of the ferociously fast, super-exclusive (only 30 ever produced) 800BHP Ferrari FFX. It's another pedal-powered masterpiece (this time requiring two riders to pump away) that is currently on sale at the Lentos Museum of Art in Austria for £1.2 million. Fret not though, you'll soon claw that back thanks to the car's exemption from road tax...

Future fuel rating: Making vehicles much lighter is vital to improving fuel consumption in the future, so an (only) slightly tongue-in-cheek seven out of 10.

Bionic fat

Lovers of Ginsters products who openly wept at the passing of the king-sized Mars Bars in 2004 can take pride in the fact that their flab could one day save the planet. Not convinced? Then enter Earthrace, a 78-foot trimaran that circumnavigated the world powered only by human fat in 2008.

Though the massive powerboat normally runs on biodiesel, New Zealand skipper Pete Bethune decided to raise awareness about biofuels (and lower his carbon footprint) by removing his body fat (and that of two volunteers) via liposuction and using it to power the epic trip. And kudos to them as the boat managed to make the full trip in a distinctly unlardy-like 60 days, 23 hours and 49 minutes, breaking the world record for the fastest powerboat journey around the globe in the process.

Future fuel rating: Obesity levels are set to rise in the UK so let's kill two birds with one19 stone! A supersize eight out of 10 with a side order of fries and onion rings, please.


Gone with the wind

Is this the future of travelling? Flushing the contents of your toilet into the company car? The makers of the Bio-Bug certainly seem to think so. Using the gas produced by the excrement from 70 homes, the resultant methane was enough to power GENeco's VW Beetle prototype for 10,000 miles without the performance disappearing round the U-bend.

Able to hit 114MPH, the VW (fondly nicknamed the 'Dung Beetle' by the press) thankfully doesn't let out any silent-but-deadly emissions from its rear. Shame the same can't be guaranteed for any of its drivers or passengers; perhaps that's the reason why the car's creators chose to use a convertible in the first place...

Future fuel rating: Politicians are full of it – so we could run the nation's cars off theirs alone. A company fuel cards-shredding nine out of 10 then!

For more practical information on fuel saving, please download our eGuide ‘Take the reins: How to seize control of your company’s fuel spend’

Guest Post: James Knight is the fuel management consultant of The Fuelcard Company, the largest commercial reseller of company fuel cards in the UK. You can read more on his expertise in fuel control and solutions on vehicle maintenance by reading Fuel Cards Blog here. You can also find him on Google+ and Twitter.