Poo power is ready to hit the streets. Hyundai recently announced plans to begin leasing a new vehicle this spring, and the fuel in the tank will come from processed sewage.
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Last fall, Tesla's Elon Musk was calling hydrogen fuel cell technology for vehicles "bullsh*t." He meant that as an insult, saying it's a dangerous gas more suitable for rockets than for cars. But it's almost literally true. In several weeks Hyundai will begin leasing a new Tucson Fuel Cell crossover vehicle that runs on hydrogen gas derived from excrement. Hat tip AutoblogGreen.
The complex process to convert waste from toilets and sinks in Southern California into hydrogen comes from scientists at UC Irvine's National Fuel Cell Research Center, Bloomberg's Alan Ohnsman reported. Essentially the solids are separated from water and fed to microbes that turn it into methane and CO2. Some methane gets filtered and piped into a special device, and then voilà: hydrogen gas.
That hydrogen then goes directly into a public pump for refueling vehicles. Hyundai says the Tucson's three-year lease - about $3,000 down and then nearly $500 a month – will include maintenance and unlimited hydrogen refueling at a dozen pumps around California. Its tank takes about three minutes to fill and is good for about 300 miles, Ohnsman explained.
Hyundai has been emphasizing the Tucson's advantages, notably that it can achieve a better range and refuel faster than battery electric vehicles.
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A staggering 90,000 people expressed interest in leasing the vehicle. Not surprising given the zero emissions, great range, rapid fueling and gas derived from toilet water. At the same time, I can't disregard Musk's admonitions. We'll have to see if, down the road, this smells like success or something else.
Image: A pre-production model of the Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell vehicle. Credit: Hyundai USA.