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8 bizarre ways to fuel your car or heat your home

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October 26, 2014
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The scientists tell us that global warming is very real, man-made and set to causing rising sea levels on a coastline near you.

So the race is on to find new ways to fuel our cars – and heat our homes – and boffins are hard at work looking at the alternatives that can help to save our planet.

Specialist insurance broker Adrian Flux, which provides misfuel cover for just £13 a year, takes a look at eight of the strangest ideas on the table.

220px-Lincoln_Navigator_(Orange_Julep_'10)1) Human body fat – Dr Alan Bittner hit the headlines in 2008 when he revealed he was using human body fat removed from liposuction patients to power his 4×4 and his girlfriend’s Lincoln Navigator.

He boasted: “The vast majority of my patients request that I use their fat for fuel – and I have more fat than I can use. Not only do they get to lose their love handles or chubby belly, but they get to take part in saving the Earth.”

There’s no doubt he was telling the truth – human body fat contains triglycerides that can be turned into diesel. Unfortunately for Dr Bittner, the practice was also illegal and he promptly closed his surgery soon afterwards.

2) Used nappies – companies in Japan and Canada have made machines that can turn used nappies into fuel, so your car could one day be run on your baby’s faeces.

Modern used nappies are seen as an environmental disaster to conservationists and those people who still believe we should all use cloth nappies, wash and re-use.

In Quebec alone, where the technology was being used, 120,000 tonnes of used nappies are sent to landfill each year. Will it ever catch on? Don’t poo-poo it just yet.

3) Chocolate – back in 2009, British eco-boffin James Meredith headed a project to produce a 145mph F3 racing car that could run on chocolate.

186px-ChocolateThe ecoF3 car had a steering wheel made from carrots, a body crafted from potatoes and a seat made from soya bean – and ran on chocolate extracts and vegetable oil.

Sadly, its adapted engine failed to meet regulations allowing it to compete, but Meredith was happy enough to prove the point that you don’t need traditional petrol to make a car go fast.

4) Rabbits – Back in 2008, officials in Stockholm provoked outrage when they opted to tackle an escalating rabbit population by turning the amorous animals into biofuel to heat homes.

In fairness, the energizer bunnies were going to be killed anyway as part of a cull and local government were merely using the carcasses in an environmentally friendly way, but animal rights groups weren’t happy.

As well as rabbits, moose, reindeer, horses and pigs were thrown into the incinerator southeast of Stockholm.

218px-Coffee_Beans_Photographed_in_Macro5) Coffee – many of us fuel ourselves with coffee, especially early on Monday mornings, but one enterprising engineer in the US decided he also wanted to power his 1975 GMC pick-up using coffee grounds remnants.

The truck burns up used coffee grounds to create a combustible gas, which feeds the engine to create a caffeine-powered vehicle.

In fact, on board wood gas generators can be used to create gas from just about any waste combustible material.

6) Air – free, abundantly available and 100 per cent clean, wouldn’t it be great if all our cars needed to run was air? If it sounds too good to be true, it’s because it is…but partially air-powered cars that will be cleaner and cheaper to run than electric vehicles are on their way. In 2013, Peugeot announced their “hybrid air” engine system that uses a normal internal combustion engine combined with compressed air cyclinders than store and release energy.

The French company claims that the car will run on air 80 per cent of time in city driving, producing an average of 117mpg by 2020. The dream of running your car on (mostly) fresh air is closer than you think.

7) Turkeys – ever wondered what to do with all that leftover turkey after Christmas? How about using it to run your car? In the US, a group of entrepreneurs in Missouri decided to turn turkey guts, feathers and all the other waste bits of our gobbling friends into fuel.

The process, known as thermo-depolymerization (TDP), can produce diesel, gas and jet fuel. One drawback is the smell – the plant stinks and provoked outrage from nearby residents.

8) Water – next to air, the second most abundant resource on earth is water, and in 2008 a Japanese group of engineers produced a car that could run on nothing but good old H2O. An energy generator splits the water molecules to produce hydrogen, which powers the car.


For now, though, the vast majority of us are still pouring petrol or diesel into our tanks, and a surprising number – an estimated 400 people per day – are still putting the wrong fuel in their car.

With petrol nozzles smaller than diesel and slipping unhindered into the fuel neck, it’s an easy mistake to make, especially if you switch between diesel and petrol cars on a regular basis.

Adrian Flux’s misfuelling insurance cover costs just £13 a year and can provide a specialist to come and clean out your tank and put £10 of the correct type of fuel back in before any damage is done to your engine.

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