It may be full of beans, but that's a good thing: An automobile dubbed the "Car-puccino" has been designed to run only on leftover coffee grounds. The heavily modified 1988 Volkswagen Scirocco was created for British TV show Bang Goes the Theory , a program dedicated to "putting science to the test." To prove that just about anything can be turned into car fuel these days, Bang Goes the Theory will drive the Car-puccino 210 miles from London to Manchester using only residual coffee grounds as fuel.
This coffee-guzzling car combines Back to the Future styling (in addition to being inexpensive, the Scirocco resembles the DeLorean) and steampunk aesthetics (the designers installed a radiator grill on the roof), and it achieves 1.4 miles per pound of grounds, which works out to about 56 espressos per mile.
Driving between London and Manchester will require more than 150 pounds of grounds, plus stops every 30 to 45 miles to refill, as well as frequent breaks to clean the coffee filtering system. On the bright side, if the guy behind the wheel plans to generate all of his fuel himself by drinking and driving, he'll probably be able to get out of the car and run to Manchester under his own power after the first mile or so.
The Daily Mail newspaper provides photos and an infographic describing how the Car-puccino works.
Since coffee in the UK now costs between $9 and $20 per pound, the Car-puccino's coffee would cost up to 50 times more than the gasoline required for a conventional auto, if it were not relying on recycled grounds. The Car-puccino's top speed of 60 miles per hour ensures a leisurely and pleasant-smelling 210-mile journey, with lots of rest stops.
The Car-puccino works by heating coffee grounds with charcoal until the beans break down into gaseous hydrogen and carbon monoxide. The fuel system feeds the resulting gas into a rooftop radiator, which filters out solids and tar, and the purified gas then burns in the car's engine. Though coffee-powered cars are unlikely to pass their gas-sipping cousins in popularity anytime soon--even if Starbucks sets up filling stations everywhere and offers to sell its leftover grounds at a competitive price--this still is a neat proof-of-concept.
If you're in the United Kingdom, check out the Car-puccino at the Big Bang Science Fair in Manchester this week, and watch the Bang Goes the Theory episode featuring the car on May 3. Will the Car-puccino make the daily grind of driving more fun? Will it create a lasting buzz? And if you drive it in Switzerland, does it become an Alp-puccino? Tell us your grounds for viewing the car's prospects as promising or muddy in the comments.
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