Nov. 3, 2006: Capital Press—New Hybrid Runs on Cow Power

Summary: "The Viking 32, a hybrid car that runs on electricity and biomethane, is a ‘sweet’ car by anyone’s standards.

‘It’s a hot rod,’ Eric Leonhardt, director of the Vehicle Research Institute at Western Washington University, told an appreciative group of people crowded around the car during a recent biodiesel workshop at the Alcoa Intalco plant.

The hot-rod status comes from the car’s snazzy looks coupled with its ability to go from 0 to 60 mph in less than 6 seconds. Another plus: It gets about 50 miles to the gallon.

But what makes this car especially sweet is that its fuel emissions are so low that Leonhardt calls it the ‘cleanest car in the world that runs on fuel.’ In fact, its emissions are a hundred times below the federal limit.

For dairy farmers, the car represents the possibility of capturing additional revenue from what is now an environmental headache – cow manure.

The link between the two is that the car is powered by cow manure. Well, not exactly cow manure, but the methane gas captured from cow manure – in this specific case from the manure digester at Darryl Vander Haak’s farm.

An important benefit of using biomethane from cow manure instead of natural gas is that biomethane is a renewable source of energy.

‘We can turn cow power into horsepower,’ Leonhardt happily said during his presentation at the workshop.

He pointed out that with 66,000 cows in the area, the manure generated by all of those cows produces the methane equivalent of 10 million gallons of gasoline every year."

Dairies in other parts of the country can generate electricity with the methane produced by cow manure digesters, but in the Pacific Northwest, cheap power from hydroelectric plants is plentiful.

A microrefinery to scrub digested methane from cow manure into usable vehicle fuel could help encourage more dairies to install manure digesters. If the technology were widely adopted, farmers could benefit from an additional revenue stream, polluting manure could be kept out of the environment, and biomethane-electric hybrid cars could provide clean transportation.

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