3 Strange Fuel Sources That Will Surprise Auto Mechanics

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When you think of alternative fuel sources, you likely tend to think of things like ethanol, battery-powered cars, and biodiesel. However, there are many alternative fuel sources that you may not have realized can even be used as fuel. In fact, some of them might be in your house!

As bizarre as they might seem at first glance, these unusual fuel sources are often surprisingly efficient and practical. Here are three sources of fuel you might not have expected if you’re studying to become an auto mechanic.

1. Coffee Can Run More Than Just Your Brain’s Engine

You know it as the hot drink that wakes you up and gets you ready to face the day, but coffee is also an unexpected car fuel source. Sounds ridiculous, right? Not as much as you’d think. Back in 2013, British conservationist Martin Bacon modified a Ford P100 pickup truck with a charcoal stove and a modified gas engine capable of running on coffee byproduct and hydrogen. A boiler took the coffee byproduct and turned it into a hydrogen-carbon monoxide mixture, with the hydrogen being fed to the motor. The result was a coffee-powered truck capable of top speeds of about 105 km/h. Three years prior, a 1988 Volkswagen Scirocco was known as the “Carpuccino” after it was taken on a 338 km road trip between London and Manchester for the BBC1 show, Bang Goes the Theory. It too was fueled by coffee granules.

Coffee grounds were used as a source of fuel for a 338 km road trip in the U.K. in 2010
Coffee grounds were used as a source of fuel for a 338 km road trip in the U.K. in 2010

2. Auto Mechanics May Be Surprised That Hemp Is a Fuel Source

Believe it or not, hemp is a surprisingly practical means of fueling an automobile. Biodiesel fuel can be made using hemp seeds and stalks’ fermented oils, which is not only a cheap way to create fuel, but also a more efficient one since hemp can be harvested and grown fairly easily. In fact, auto mechanics will be intrigued by how hemp and cars have a surprisingly long history together. Henry Ford even attempted to build a car back in 1941 that not only had a plastic body made from soybeans plus several other ingredients such as hemp, but which also ran on hemp fuel.

3. Algae: Going Straight From the Swamp to the Tank

If you’re in an automotive technology program you may be surprised to hear that one fuel source can be found in swamps and other bodies of water. Whether in the form of bioethanol, biodiesel or otherwise, algae is a resource that can be used for a variety of different biofuels. More specifically, algae cells can be harvested for oil, which can then be mixed with other chemicals to make biodiesel. Algae fuels also burn cleaner, produce far more oil per acre than other types of biofuel sources such as corn (up to 60 times more), and is almost carbon-neutral—not to mention that if it’s spilled, it is biodegradable. In other words, the green substance you find at the bottom of a pond or swamp can fuel a car more easily than you’d imagine.

Algae from a swamp can make biodiesel through the oil that can be harvested from it
Algae from a swamp can make biodiesel through the oil that can be harvested from it

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