back to article 'Poo-powered' Volkswagen astounds world+dog

The UK and green media is alive with reports of a "poo powered" car, dubbed the "Bio-Bug", developed to encourage sustainable motoring. But what's the real story? The GENeco Bio-Bug CNG fuelled Beetle. Credit: Wessex Water Plenty of grunt (etc). "On first hearing of the Bio-Bug, some people will smile, and some people will …


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  1. Seanmon


    "Biomethane cars could be just as important as electric cars."

    How very true.

  2. Tim 64

    Top Gear did it first

    Season 4 Episode 6, Hammond tested methane from cow and human poo

    1. BenR

      Indeed they did!

      And it was a cracking episode that came to much the same conclusion as the El Reg journo.

      It's a decent idea, about as sustainable (there'll always be poo!) and environmentally friendly as you can get (unless you can run 'leccy cars on zero-point energy.)

      Sadly though, it'll never take off except on a small scale because the numbers don't stack up. Brilliant for the small number of fleet vehicles at places like this, useless for almost everyone else.

  3. Lionel Baden


    What better car to pick to be powered by shit.

    Shit Idea

    Shit Design

    Shit Build

    Shit handling

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      But think of the name

      The new VW Dung Beetle

  4. Jimboom

    Full of it

    That cars full of cr4p!

    I for one welcome our poo-car driving overlords.

    I'll get me coat. It's the brown one with some suspect smelling stains on it.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    title req?

    No financial reason to sell it back to the gas grid, its far more viable to buy the kit, turn the CNG into leccy then sell it to the leccy grid. Once the government gets its arse into gear and gives the same incentives to gas producers as it does to leccy producers then maybe things will change.

    AC, cause of the company I work for...

    1. Anonymous Coward

      It'll need more than just the government

      to get it's arse into gear.

      Everyone will have to, if this is going to use shit nation-wide.

      I'm going

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Bad idea

    Biogas outside specialised plants that burn it on the spot is a bad idea. It has lots of sulfur containing impurities starting from plain old hydrogen sulfide and going to mercaptanes and other organic stuff. Anything burning this is bound to produce nasty toxic and acidic fumes. It is possible to deal with these on a fixed installation. Dealing with it in a vehicle is not something which anyone has figured out.

  7. LuMan

    Other poo?

    I probably won't be the first to mention this, but if puny humans can only muster up less than 1% per head (or botty) to fuel a car, what about livestock? Does every kg of cow, sheep, goat, haggis poo go towards slurry and fertilizer? Could we not use some of it to create more fuel?

    Just a thought..

    1. Andrew the Invertebrate

      My thoughts exactly...

      but do you want to be the one attaching the colostomy bags to all those cows to collect what they'd otherwise leave behind in the fields?

      1. copsewood

        most livestock poo is already collected

        Just let the stuff they do outdoors on grass fertilise it in the time honoured fashion. Most livestock bred for meat are kept indoors and most animals which are on pasture during the summer are fed indoors through the winter. So no extra cost to collect, given indoor livestock have to be mucked out regularly anyway. Then there is the time the dairy herd on pasture are in the milking parlour, which also has to be mucked out very regularly.

      2. Nexox Enigma

        Feed lots

        Feed lots already collect quite a lot of manure (think small mountains,) but seeing as how they already sell it for a profit as fertilizer, it might not be the cheapest source of a tiny bit of CNG.

        1. Allan George Dyer

          But fertiliser is nitrogen and phorphorus...

          the sludge from the fermentation vessel will still contain most of that, so you still get fertiliser to sell. You're simply splitting the energy-rich molecules from the N and P rich molecules.

          icon - insert joke about igniting biogas here.

  8. Matt Bucknall

    Waste of time

    The reality is, the only viable long-term solution to our energy problems is nuclear fusion. In the meantime, we may as well convert our transport infrastructure to all electric so we're ready when the reactors finally come online.

    My preferred vision of the future is for vehicles to use electric motors, running from hydrogen fuel cells, generated by electrolysis powered by nuclear fusion.

  9. Rocket

    McFly - pass me that banana skin

    Does this mean that portable powerstations fired by *ahem* organic matter will soon be fitted behind the seats of deLoreans?

    It's bad enough following chip-shop smelling fat-burners

    I'll get me coat coz I'd rather walk there

  10. Anonymous Coward

    Surely this should be called...

    The Dung Beetle?!

    Mines the one with poo in the pocket.

    1. Tim Parker

      Re : "Surely this should be called... The Dung Beetle?!"

      Ummm. It is.

  11. Graham Bartlett
    Dead Vulture

    "hard green type"


    "intensely anti-nuclear"

    If that means Trident, then good-oh. Pointless exercise, spunking billions just so we could kill half of Russia's civilians after a hypothetical nuclear strike from a country that can't any more put any kind of well-equipped army in the field.

    If that means power stations, then only half bad. I'm pro-nuclear-power myself, but anti-nuclear-establishment, since the safety record at these places is worryingly poor.

    "against economic growth"

    Nothing wrong with economic growth. But there's a lot wrong with an economic model which as its basic assumption states that economic growth will continue forever in every country across the whole world, and insists that limiting factors such as social uplift (and consequent increased wages) in poorer countries and shortage of readily-available raw materials simply don't exist.

    "considers solar power worthwhile in the UK climate"

    Any reason why it isn't? We're not the hottest place in the world, but we're not too badly off for sunshine - we've not got the biggest mountains either, but hydro still works out for us. Sure it's not currently cost-effective, but get solar panels efficient enough and cheap enough, and it could easily be worthwhile.

    Wonder who wrote this? Oh yes - Lewis. What a surprise. Not.

    1. Nexox Enigma


      """Any reason why it isn't? We're not the hottest place in the world, but we're not too badly off for sunshine"""

      It's not the hours of sun per day that's the issue, it's the intensity of the shining. As the UK is at a rather high latitude, you get rather weak sunlight at the best of times, add in the clouds and the extremely short winter days (when you need /more/ electricity,) and you're better off spending your money on other renewable energy sources.

      Just keep in mind that your annual solar energy per unit area is around 1/10th what you'd get in the Nevada desert, so when solar is cost effective for your country, it would have probably already been cheaper to generate a bit extra in a handy equatorial desert and install some big cables. That may sound impracticle, but it's more economically viable than UK solar. And you still get no power at night.

      """we've not got the biggest mountains either, but hydro still works out for us."""

      Could be more to do with the quantity of rain you get - you don't need a mountain any higher than the height of the largest damn you're willing to build, where dam height dictates how much peak energy you can pull out of the water. But rainfall is where that energy comes from, untimately, not mountains.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ..hey, I've got one too!


    *Page is a standard <insert derogatory generic stereotype here> : pro-nuclear, enamoured by the arms race (that he ignores the absence of taxpayer VFM), in favour of economic growth (even if unsustainable/detrimental long term ), and apparently dismissive of any technology that doesn't *single handedly* resolve a problem which he's only recently conceded to exist.

    Although, strangely for the sake of this argument... pro-electric cars.

    FYI, by virtue of the carbon cycle all fossil fuel is, or was at one time: animal corpses, shit and compost.

  13. Smudger 1

    Just build a fertiliser plant

    You only need methane, air and water to make ammonium nitrate.

  14. CT

    Monty Python flashback

    "Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Association (ADBA) Chairman Lord Rupert Redesdale"

    sounds like an interviewee on a too silly Monty Python sketch. (Nothing personal Lord Rupert, I don't suppose you chose the name)

  15. rahul

    In India... a state called Gujrat, practically the entire state runs on CNG. However, don't know the SOURCE for it...

  16. richard 69
    Thumb Up

    solar power is great....

    for the calculator on my desk.........that porridge bloke needs wiring up to the national grid for a good few minutes, what a bright spark.

  17. Anonymous John

    How do you connect it to your toilet?

    Especially if you have to park your car in the road.

  18. Matt_V

    In any case...

    Could we please have the boot notes for a page on the page that they referring to? I know others have asked but I live in hope :)

  19. M7S

    Does anyone use 1970's slang anymore?

    As if they did, for speeding it would be pulled over by....

    ...the Filth.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Definitely nothing new - this was talked about when I worked for Wessex Water back before it was privatised.

  21. xj25vm

    So it gets read of crap - and we get something useful in exchange

    This is nothing new - it has been around for a while. Even during WWII various countries (including Britain) were producing natural gas on small scale to power vehicles and other machinery. Small biogas home digesters seem to be very popular in India and other countries in warmer climates. Search the web for "kristianstad biogas" and see an example of a large scale application of biogas use in Sweden - where the biological waste of an entire city (including recyclable rubbish) is used to produce biogas for electricity, heat and transportation.

    OK - it seems that there isn't enough of it to replace a significantly large proportion of our energy use. But I suggest a different way of looking at it. This is crap that we don't want, don't need and it costs us money to get rid of (including any compost type material from household waste). This process will turn it into a form of energy which can be used in various forms (electricity production, heat production, transport) in the local economy. That, plus perfectly harmless liquid fertilizer at the end of the process - which can be used straight away by the agriculture in the fields. How can that be bad? Maybe it's not as profitable as oil, but we are talking about a process which happens here, in the local economy. Not buying energy in various forms from foreign countries.

    If we assume that financially it is barely paying for itself - when you factor in the fact that it also keeps wealth in the national economy, it has positive ecological impact, it generates some employment locally and it gets rid of stuff we have no need for - that surely adds up to something more then desireable.

    And to the above poster - it is true that raw biogas comes with sulphur componds in various forms - but it seems that this can be solved at the production point using not very complicated or expensive (industrially speaking) biogas scrubbing methods. Just see google.

    I don't understand why so much opposition.

  22. Ralph B
    Thumb Up

    VIZ Jizz Whizz Biz

    This is one small but important step towards achieving Mickey's Monkey Spunk Moped.

    1. LuMan
      Thumb Up

      Yes, but

      In one of Mickey's earlier adventures he had to stop using monkey spunk to power his moped (the judge ruled it illegal). IIRC in the last frame of the cartoon he was parked up outside a zoo asking one of the keepers if they had any leopards' fanny batter!

  23. Rob 101

    Other poo.....

    Actually there are conversions available for slurry/fertiliser plants which allow them to bottle the excess gas produced or use it in generators etc.

    Again though there is the lack of financial incentive for the hughely expensive kit to be used even on larger scale sites. It is being trialled in several areas though.

  24. A J Stiles

    Why it's important

    It's important because it's being discussed on news sites, and smart people are getting ideas.

  25. Stone Fox

    come on guys...

    please don't be to quick to poo poo the idea!

  26. alyn

    How many TPM?

    How many TPM (Turds per Mile) does it do?

    It had to be said - "Save gas, fart in a bottle"

  27. Anonymous Coward

    A POS car

    Powered by other POS's. All as a PR stunt. I feel so green.

  28. Dave 15
    Thumb Up

    I seem to remember

    When I was a kid Blue Peter or Tommorws World (date myself, why not) did a piece on London Taxis powered by gas from the top of the sewers.

    It seems a good idea to me. Even if not all cars can be powered this way if some can thats good. I mean currently cars have petrol, diesel, gas, chip pan oil, batteries.. a right mix, why not add another into it?

    I would rather be putting gas from the top of a sewer in the car than petrol any day of the week :)

  29. Jethro Q. Bunn Whackett Buzzard Stubble and Boot Walrustitty

    At last

    this will put an end to syphoning.....unless your brave.....or sick!

    1. Samuel


      ..You're Mark Oaten

  30. Kay Burley ate my hamster

    Aachi & Ssipak

    Aachi & Ssipak is a very good film dealing with this subject.


    Sometime in the future, mankind has depleted all energy and fuel sources, however they have somehow engineered a way to use human excrement as fuel. To reward production, the government hands out extremely addictive, popsicle-like "Juicybars", which in turn also act as a laxative. Aachi and Ssipak are street hoodlums who struggle to survive by trading black market Juicybars. Through a chain of events involving their porn-director acquaintance Jimmy the Freak, they meet wannabe-actress Beautiful, whose defecations are rewarded by exceptional quantities of Juicybars. For that reason, Beautiful is also wanted by the violent blue mutants known as the Diaper Gang (led by the Diaper King), the police (most notably the cyborg police officer Geko), and others.

    1. LinkOfHyrule
      Thumb Up

      wow thanks!

      This sounds like the best film ever, I'm not being sarcastic, seriously, this is right up my street it sounds bloody hilarious! Thanks for telling us about it!

      I cannot find it for sale on amazon though :o(

      Thanks again!

  31. dave 46

    Good for communists bad for capitalists

    70 households poop to run one car?

    So one in 70 households can run a car? Sounds like communist russia where only the political elites had the good stuff, the rest just made do with vodka.

  32. Toxic_Overdraft

    Laterally thinking ..

    .... seating styled by Armitage-Shanks perhaps?

  33. JJS

    When are they going to realize...

    ...that they're just polishing a turd?

  34. Doug Glass

    Nothing New

    Methane from "natural" sources has been used for decades to fuel various engines. Problem is the economies of scale are not there so they've been oddities and very small scale ventures. Never has been a force and never will be in the near future. Give it 500 years when all coal reserves are fully depleted and it might actually become something.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Now don't be flingin' poo without cause

    "The Tesla Roadster, for instance, takes 48 hours to charge up from a standard US wall socket."

    Yes, well, el reg doesn't run at all on standard US wall sockets. On a 230V system, that'd be only 24 hours then? And besides, if it's ok to pave the entire country with motorways in the name of individual transportation and plunk refueling stations everywhere for those fossil fuel gurgling cars, I don't see why it wouldn't be acceptable to put a 3phase sockets at strategic points everywhere.

    I'll buy the "won't scale" argument, but I'm not sure we should blame the people who run the plant. It's probably more worthwhile to think of better governmental encouragement strategies. Instead of subsidies, make it cheap loans, or something. But then the banks will bitch about undercutting in a market they wouldn't themselves fund because it doesn't bring enough fat bonuses. Oh well.

    Still and all, on balance I like it as it's a relatively benign waste (if that) of taxpayer money and we could learn something from it -- we'd better make sure we do. In fact, we should actively look for ways to improve our processes and harvest energy that otherwise would be wasted, at least where it makes sense to do so, not at the cost of everything. But we should push for that far harder that we're doing already, because once we absolutely have to it becomes a frenzied goal in its own right, with systemic stupidity to match.

    For example, I see a market for cheap-ish devices that can store a couple petawatthours to level out generation bumps and demand bobs in the grid. That'd smooth over a lot of trouble caused by "renewable generation".

  36. scatter

    Standard recharging will be plenty...

    ...for the vast majority of EV use. Using a full recharge of the Tesla Roadster battery (56kWh) as your example was a little disingenous (no surprise there though).

    A 13A socket will deliver 3kW. Let's say charging efficeincy is 90% and you recharge for 6 hours from midnight until 6am in order to reduce the impact on the grid. That gives you 16kWh, enough to take you 100km @ 150Wh/km.

    That'll easily cover most commuting needs in both directins but you could always top up at work, again with a standard socket (although paying much more for peak rate electricity). If you drive much more than that you can get a plug in hybrid or a high efficiency diesel.

    As for biomethane, we're only going to see it in captive fleets. But there's no harm in demonstrating the technology in a context that everyone understands, i.e. a car. Much better to use the biogas in heat applicatins though as they have much hgher efficiencies than vehicle applications.

    1. philby

      Standard US Recharging is different

      UK mains are 200V or 200V or some such?

      US are 110V~120V "standard". Then with a 15A circuit you are way behind the 3kW you quoted.

      You can get 20A at 115V pretty easily, and any new house now built will come with some 220V plugs for oven, clothes dryer, etc. Not sure if that's usually 15A, could be higher.

      So electric car owners in US are told "special equipment" might be needed.... and I assume that's a 220V socket installed in the garage somewhere handy.

      The article quoted "US standard" mains so is technically correct

      1. Steve Evans


        In typical El Reg standard it started off with a story of UK poo power and then draws a comparison with charging off a US socket...

        In Europe we have 230volts. UK sockets are rated at 13A. So 3kW is easy. The ring main circuit itself is fused to 30A, so some cunning use of several sockets could get you to almost 7kW.

        Now if you really want to get clever you need a friendly neighbour. To balance the load across the phases you often find that the phases for the local substation are wired to each single phase house in sequence, so you will have the same phase as the house 3 doors down. NOT the same phase as the house either side of you... So be nice to the neighbour on either side and you can use his live phase and your own (120 degrees out of phase of each other), and tada, 415v :-)

        Be warned if you have an earth leakage trip it'll plunge you into darkness!

        Please note you should not do this if you don't know what you are doing! If you think 230volts makes you jump, you really don't want to try 415!

  37. the bat

    Does it comes with Air Freshener?

    Does it comes with Air Freshener? Wont want to be around when it back fires!!

  38. LinkOfHyrule

    Hang on a minuet....

    ...If my poo is such a valuable fuel, why am I flushing down the loo and giving it to the water company for free? Surely they should pay me for each turd (maybe 20p per turd knocked off my water bill) or failing that, should I be storing at home and making my own gas digester thingy in the back garden?

  39. Anonymous Coward

    Maybe they should try it in the US.

    Everyone knows us 'merkins are full of sh--wait...

  40. Adam Williamson 1

    Good points, but...

    Good points (and all the first ones I thought of when I saw this particular vanity project), but:

    "Porritt is a standard hard-green type"

    when you get to the point of habitually categorizing your enemies into cartoonish stereotypes, you've gone too far.

  41. MadonnaC

    AA Man

    This just gives a wonderful picture of the AA man dropping trousers to help you get to the patrol station, and fill up properly

  42. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Don't poo poo the poo poo

    The poo pooing alone is a court martial offense.

    Mine will have a copy of the "Collected Writings of Lord General Melchett (Retd)" in the pocket.

  43. Charles Manning

    PR Bollocks

    "With the surplus gas we had available we wanted to put it to good use in a sustainable and efficient way,"

    If they wanted to do that then all they needed to do was run it through a generator and push the leccy back onto the grid - just like they do in hundreds of waste treatment plants world wide.

    Here in Christchurch NZ, the waste treatment place generates all its own power for building airconditioning, pumping, lights etc and then still manages to put quite a bit back on the grid. That's nothing exceptional. Many places do the same.

    Running a car on the stuff is less sustainable and efficient use of the energy than making leccy, but it sure looks green and clean to those that don't understand numbers. Makes good PR for the Great Unwashed.

  44. This post has been deleted by its author

  45. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    Vehicles. No. Put into the national gas grid, yes.

    It's true this stuff will need sweetening (Sulphur compound reduction or elimination) but Denmark does it and as El Reg has reported before aerobatic digestion of meat and food waste (which the Water companies hardware *should* be able to cope with but presumably has never been tried) *could* meet 50% of the UK gas supply.

    Running it in a car does seem kind of dumb but I doubt it will need *anything* like the 5000psi of Hydrogen tanks (although it might use the same design, giving a *very* high safety margin at the actual pressures sued).

    BTW Methane is *odorless* the "Smell" is actually the trace amounts of Mercaptans (which are Sulphur compounds) added as a safety feature. Part of the point of this car *may* be to emphasize the pongless nature of the fuel.

    Cautious thumbs up. Hope they do expand into waste processing.

    1. Annihilator

      Safety feature

      "BTW Methane is *odorless* the "Smell" is actually the trace amounts of Mercaptans (which are Sulphur compounds) added as a safety feature"

      Man, I can't help but think that creationists have a point if my farts have an additional safety feature like that built in.. (the original safety feature of course being my sphincter)

  46. Peter Christy

    Harold Bate

    I'm suprised no-one has pointed out that Dartmouth farmer and engineer Harold Bate was doing this in the 1950s! Indeed during the 60s, he used to sell do-it-yourself conversion kits for making and compressing your own methane. He also sold all the parts necessary to convert your car.

    It didn't catch on at the time because petrol back then was relatively cheap!

    However, a couple of years ago, when the price hit £1.20 / litre, I bought a 40 year old, carburretor equipped car specifically with this in mind!

    Do a Google search for Harold Bate, and weep!



  47. AceRimmer1980

    2 Girls

    1 Reserve tank

  48. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. mmiied

      explnation needed

      *"Take 'water powered cars' for instance. This is when a the hydrogen is separated from the oxygen through simple electrolysis, using a vehicles own 12v electrical system. The gases are recombined to form a gas known as 'browns gas'. This is fed into a standard cars, standard ignition system in place of gasoline and provides a much cleaner and more powerful burn than gasoline does, giving better performance and a price that can fit any pocket! The exhaust emission aren't bad either - oxygen!"*

      so where dose the electrictity come from to make it work for that discription you are spliting water with electric (loseing energy) and then using it to burn in the engin (loseing energy) why not just use the battrys to power the wheeles (probleyh more efecent) unless you thing the car can recharge the battry when it is running on the hydrogen (law of physics problem

      I am not dismising it or trying to cover it up but even with only a GCSE in physics I can see there is a hole in this energy sum

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      @Peter Snow

      Do not feed.

    3. Charles Manning

      Who's your dealer?

      I really want some of what you're smoking.

      When you burn Browns' Gas it makes water, not oxygen. It also manages to make NOx compounds too.

      All the cars that "run on Brown's Gas" and also use some other power source. Adding Brown's Gas to the air/petrol mixture might make a poorly tuned petrol car run better but it is still the petrol that's providing the power.

      All "Browns Gas only" vehicles are either hoaxes or their owners have been silenced by BIG OIL.

  49. Richard Cartledge
    Thumb Down


    In Iran, most vehicles use CNG, so nothing new here.

    Using NG and converting it to electricity (just like a power station) - nothing new here.

    Getting paid ridiculous sums of money for doing it, because it on an efficient small scale. It doesn't make economical or environmental sense any way you look at it apart from the wallet of the EU scammers. The only thing of note is the scamming of money!

  50. Phrontis

    LPG rather than CNG!!

    You need a huge infrastructure for CNG no point in doing it small scale.

    I run my car on LPG, CNG is not used much at all in this country. I don’t mind driving around with a tank of 75 litres of LPG (propane/butane) at about 250psi but I am buggered if I am going to drive around with a tank of CNG at 3000psi. LPG is stored in the tank at normal temperature and is not chilled, it liquidises at about 2.2 bar if it is all butane and 22 bar if it is all propane. As far as I know the AUTOGAS sold in the UK is a mix although I do not know at what proportions. I cannot remember ever having seen anywhere to fill up with CNG, I suppose you put in a compressor at home and use the mains gas overnight with a small HP compressor. The main advantage of LPG is you can run a 4.2 litre V8 at reasonable cost. I pay 53p a litre at home but here on hols in the NE it is about 61p a litre. Still better than VPower at £1.20 or whatever it is at the moment. Not so many miles to the gallon on LPG, 17 compared to 22 on petrol so the actual equivalent miles per gallon is not quite as good as you might hope for; but I used to do 25000 miles a year which is a saving at current costs of £2600 a year, this paid for the conversion in 9 months. The other savings over the 4 years have paid for the car. The very best thing about filling up with LPG is there is little tax on it, so I used to vigorously wave two metaphorical fingers at Gordon TWAT Brown every time I filled up.


  51. Parax

    marketing bullshite.

    So its suitable for one car in 70 households... That is one hell of a carshare. It's really not going to work for 69 in 70 households. ergo its a crap idea.

    Better to just run a static methane fuelcell and put electricity directly into the grid so it can charge 1/70th of 70 peoples leccy cars...

  52. Anonymous Coward

    Wheres my cut

    Okay, how do I invoice for taking a poo? BP, Shell, PB???

    How much should I charge per gram?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Goes like

      shit off a shovel

  53. Jon Wilson

    What a lovely mental image

    @John Smith 19 you owe me a new keyboard..

    "aerobatic digestion" :->

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      @Jon Wilson

      "aerobatic digestion" :->

      Oops. Spell check is usually my friend. Yes that should have been anaerobic.

      No actual prize however.

  54. 42

    page will be well off then

    He is full of it.

  55. Mips

    Dirty Bug

    WTF, WTF.

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