First 'poo-powered' car hits Australia's streets

Time to dump petrol or diesel? Queensland Urban Utilities has shown off Australia's first 'poo powered' car.Queensland Urban Utilities

As the world searches for alternative power sources to fuel cars, there may be a solution right under our noses. The first 'poo-powered' car has hit the streets of Australia, which gets its juice every time someone flushes a toilet.

The electric vehicle from Queensland Urban Utilities is run on electricity generated by the city of Brisbane's toilet waste, an initiative which it uses to power up to 50% of its two sewage treatment plants. The eco-friendly process breaks down sewage from 300,000 households to create a biogas that powers an engine to deliver electricity, which in turn charges the car.

The Mitsubishi iMiEV owned by QUU plugs into a 240 volt power point overnight at its Oxley Creek power plant and can produce a range of up to 93 miles (150km).

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Being entirely powered by poo will come as a breath of fresh air for environmentalists and penny-pinchers alike as it's claimed to result in a $1900 (£1150) saving in fuel costs for a similar-sized petrol-powered car.

Consumers ready to convert their toilets to power their own electric cars will have to abandon plans as the process is only something the power plant is using and there was no mention of allowing regular customers to tap into.

However, the power plant itself is said to save the company around $2.5 million (£1.5 million) a year in electricity costs by re-using waste, which could mean those savings in electricity production may be reflected in bills.

The car has been covered in bold stickers and decals boasting of its 'poo power' and even has a man sitting on a toilet, comically positioned to appear as if passengers are doing the same. Of course, representatives at QUU have taken a light-hearted approach to the project and have been well prepared to answer all the obvious questions and jokes.

"We get asked all sorts of funny questions like does the car smell, or does it leave skid marks," said Michelle Cull, QUU spokeswoman.

"No, it doesn't smell at all – because it's an electric car it doesn't even have an exhaust pipe so it doesn't have any emissions."

While the car might offers a bit of light relief the ability to dump petrol or diesel and harvest energy from a waste product that is found in abundance across the planet is a significant breakthrough for the energy industry.

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"By harnessing the power of poo, we're not only reducing our operating costs but helping the environment by using a cleaner, greener energy source," said Cull.

"We're also reducing our greenhouse gas emissions because we're using a renewable energy source. This is just the first step. In the future, we're hoping our entire fleet may one day be powered by poo."

With countries already planning the ban on new petrol or diesel cars, including the UK which has targeted 2040, the motoring industry is revving up for a mass transition to electric vehicles. The energy industry is also bracing for the expected surge in electricity use as a result and initiatives such as this could help ease the strain.

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