Coffee-Powered Cars

 Several months ago, I reported on the Lotus Exige 270E Tri-Fuel, a car that is capable of running on wineEnglish coffee-powered car and cheese—not literally, of course, but the vehicle may be powered by alternative fuels made either from wine which is not up to drinking grade (in large supply these days) or whey (a byproduct of the cheese or chocolate-making process).

The Lotus calls to mind the pride and joy of Prince Charles, an Aston Martin modified to use fuel composed of 85% ethanol and made from surplus British wine. You may remember this as the getaway car used by Prince William and Kate Middleton after their wedding ceremony. It is reputed to get about ten miles per gallon, or roughly 4.5 bottles of Chardonnay.

Now we hear that the English are perfecting vehicles that run on coffee. A team from the BBC science show Bang Goes The Theory are driving a coffee-powered car 210 miles from London to Manchester, to help publicize a science fair in the latter city. The 1988 Volkswagen Scirocco has a top speed of 60 mph, and is powered by a system that turns coffee grounds into flammable gases. The system is not yet perfected, since you have to stop every hour to clean out the filters. Experts estimated that the car would use the equivalent of 10,000 espressos for the trip.

Martin Bacon, the force behind the London-to-Manchester run, recently attempted to set a land speed record for vehicles powered by burning waste. According to Bacon, the process by which coffee is turned into fuel (called “gasification”) was used during World War II due to shortages in gasoline. Mr. Bacon is waiting for the Guinness Book of World Records to certify his 66 mph speed.

His invention comes along at just the right time, as Starbucks is downsizing and closing stores all over the U.S. Perhaps there’s a use for overly roasted, bitter coffee after all.

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