With oil prices rising to record levels, the search for alternative fuels has shifted into high gear. At Western Washington University, an experimental car burning methane gas made from manure is hitting the road next month at Tour de Sol, the sustainable energy car show in New York.
The Viking 32 car, engineered at WWU's Vehicle Research Institute, "is the cleanest car in the world that runs on fuel," says Eric Leonhardt, the institute's director. We profiled his work in this story.
The difference in price could be significant: Leonardt says gasoline costs five times more than the wholesale price of refined biomethane, but that price is only theoretical, since the fuel isn't sold on the market. Biomethane is made from decomposing manure at a Lynden dairy, then purified in a "scrubber" that WWU is building to filter out hydrogen sulfide and excess carbon dioxide from the raw natural gas.