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Just about any substance imaginable that might be able to fuel a car – from algae to animal fat – has been tested for the job.
One successful environmentally friendly product that has been developed is biodiesel – a diesel-fuel substitute produced from renewable sources such as vegetable oils. Biodiesel has multiple benefits, says Darryl Melrose, director of Biodiesel SA. ‘It produces 80% less carbon dioxide and emits up to 75% less exhaust smoke than normal diesel. Also, it produces no sulphur dioxide, which is a major component of acid rain,’ he says. ‘It can be used alone or mixed in any ratio with petroleum – diesel fuel.’ The snag is that most South Africans don’t use biodiesel because it only works with older engines – it’s too thick to work with the newer-generation diesel engines.
Canadian company Amec, an international engineering and project-management conglomerate, is cleverly converting dirty disposable nappies into ‘green petrol’ at its Quebec plant. If the fuel proves to be a viable alternative to diesel, the bonus will be that mountains of nappies, which would otherwise take about 100 years to decompose, would no longer be taking up landfill space.
Scientists at the University of Warwick in the UK have designed a Formula Three racing car that runs on biofuel made from chocolate-factory waste. But before you start daydreaming about licking your petrol tank in times of chocolate withdrawal, note that this car won’t be on the market any time soon! The body of the car is eco-friendly too, having been made from vegetable fibres: the bodywork from potatoes, the steering wheel from carrots and the seats from soya-bean foam. Dr Kerry Kirwan of the university’s International Automotive Research Centre told reporters at the time the car was unveiled that it would deliver the same performance as a racing car made from more conventional materials. He added that he hoped the design would encourage the motor industry to use more green technology and fuels.