Mar 29

Hybrid rickshaw runs on human trash, animal dung, and electrons

 

An innovative electrified hybrid powered by fuel that’s most definitely renewable and sustainable is being developed not by an automotive company, but by the Denver Zoo.

The three-wheeled, 20-year-old rickshaw uses animal feces and human trash to generate electricity, and is itself recycled from its former days as a petrol-powered people mover in Thailand.

Now better known as “tuk tuk,” the vehicle is a running prototype for a larger energy generation system to make power for the zoo – due for completion this fall, and if successful, the system could change the future of waste management, says the Denver Post.

tuktukrickshaw

 

Equally true – within qualified terms – is that if this energy generation technology proves out, it could be used for a number of applications.

“This is not just a zoo thing,” said the zoo’s sustainability manager, Jennifer Hale. “It can be applied on campuses, in communities and many other environments.”

Of course the Denver Zoo intends to apply it as well, and Hale said the technology engineers working for it have developed will fuel the Toyota Elephant Passage exhibit, due to open June 1.

“[The tuk tuk] can be a place for us to interact with guests about this great technology,” Hale said. “It was a good theme with the elephants.”

Plans are to convert about 1.5 million pounds of waste to energy. Said waste will be comprised of animal droppings plus 90 percent of the solid waste (trash) produced by visitors and employees.

The zoo estimates its annual energy consumption will be offset by 20 percent from gasified pellets made from its collected refuse.

The technology is said to be “unique and revolutionary” in that it uses diverse on-site waste, instead of wood chips, for example, which have been similarly used to create fuel.

The zoo figures it will save around $150,000 per year in hauling costs and it all got started eight years ago after some enlightened dumpster diving.

“These guys spent a lot of time in dumpsters figuring out what kind of trash we produce,” said zoo spokeswoman Tiffany Barnhart of engineers looking to analyze consumption and waste patterns.

The zoo intends to catalog all its waste that can be gasified, ranging from office products, concessions packaging, and a consistent supply of animal dung – a model of sustainability and renewable energy at its finest!


 

About the only thing they can’t convert to fuel are metal, glass and plastic stuff, but those items are often recyclable anyway, and they are thinking this plan just might work.

Tuk tuk, the recycled trash and dung-burning rickshaw was not actually the first creation the zoo’s engineers made to run on gasified pellets. Their first prototype was a blender used to mix margaritas for a zoo event.

Before the elephant wing’s grand opening, tuk tuk will be taken to other zoos in Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico before being shown also at the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ midyear meeting in Palm Desert, Calif.

Denver Post

This entry was posted on Thursday, March 29th, 2012 at 5:55 am and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

COMMENTS: 22


  1. 1
    Sean

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    Mar 29th, 2012 (6:18 am)

    Cool but even if they use animal waste do you think they will still emit CO2 emissions I wonder?

    As you know it’s probably not the perfect alternative if your trying to get away from fossil fuels as in emissions unless I’m wrong?

    Also doesn’t India use these on there roads as well not just Thailand wouldn’t be surprised if I got that one right.


  2. 2
    kdawg

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    Mar 29th, 2012 (8:23 am)

    I had fun riding around the Tuk Tuks in Thailand, but the ones the size pictured above had trouble with me and my two American-sized friends. We normally stuck to the 4-wheeled ones. Now if those were EV’s, they would be similiar to the NEV’s you see in the US.

    (Using poop is an interesting idea. Now you can ask someone how much horse-sh*t power they have. I dont think you can call it a Tuk Tuk anymore either, now that it is a silent EV)


  3. 3
    Mark Z

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    Mar 29th, 2012 (8:33 am)

    We are getting closer to “Back to the Future” transportation! Doc was shown putting trash into his DeLorean too. Poo power may not be noticeable at the Zoo, but how fragrant would it be in the garage? I’m just glad this was not an early April Fools news story!


  4. 4
    Raymondjram

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    Mar 29th, 2012 (9:07 am)

    Sean:
    Cool but even if they use animal waste do you think they will still emit CO2? I wonder?

    As you know it’s probably not the perfect alternative if your trying to get away from fossil fuels as in emissions unless I’m wrong?

    Yes, that is the bad part of this story. If the zoo had solar energy they could charge the batteries for a much lower cost, avoid all that waste burning, and still be ecologically friendlier.

    Besides, this is not a road-ready vehicle for America. It will not pass safety inspections in any state, unless it was classified as a “motorcycle”, and still I wouldn’t ride in it! That is why it is used inside the zoo only as in a private property. Even a electric go-cart type is allowed in such properties.

    Raymond


  5. 5
    Bonaire

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    Mar 29th, 2012 (9:18 am)

    Disney should use EV trucks on the safari ride through the Animal Kingdom down in FL. Not only could they showcase green-transportation with an EV type of truck which doesn’t have a big duty cycle – they could act as a possible test-bed for new technology (like they showcase in their “The Land” exhibit in Epcot). They teamed with GM for the one ride at Epcot (Test Track) and maybe work with a Solar PV supplier and companies like VIA to do the trucks.

    Disney, Send me free passes if you use my idea :)


  6. 6
    delta

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    Mar 29th, 2012 (9:40 am)

    And meanwhile at A123 things are starting to smell bad.


  7. 7
    nasaman

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    Mar 29th, 2012 (10:35 am)

    Mark Z: We are getting closer to “Back to the Future” transportation! Doc was shown putting trash into his DeLorean too…

    Believe it or not, a company called FLUX Power is giving life to a new car, an electric-powered DeLorean DMC-12 EV. Created in partnership with the DeLorean Motor Company, the automobile
    is less a novelty and more so a vehicle to revive the DeLorean brand through modern technology. (Not that the company could ever be accused of being behind the times.) The DMC-12 EV runs on lithium batteries (not a flux capacitor) and can reach about 100 miles per charge, goes from
    0 to 60 mph in roughly four seconds, and packs the equivalent of 250 horsepower.
    *

    eDelorean_BatteryPack.jpg

    *The full story is at http://www.fastcoexist.com/1678726/photos-of-the-new-electric-delorean-back-to-the-future-of-cars


  8. 8
    kdawg

     

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    Mar 29th, 2012 (11:20 am)

    nasaman: and can reach about 100 miles per charge

    Maybe they could travel a bit further if they didn’t have all those pretty lights in the back.
    Still, very cool, or as the Doc would say “Great Scott!”


  9. 9
    CorvetteGuy

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    Mar 29th, 2012 (11:34 am)

    There are no airbags. Just plenty of toilet paper. ;)


  10. 10
    CorvetteGuy

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    Mar 29th, 2012 (11:38 am)

    nasaman: 0 to 60 mph in roughly four seconds, and packs the equivalent of 250 horsepower.

    It is electronically limited to 87 MPH Top Speed… (and you know why too.)


  11. 11
    Noel Park

     

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    Mar 29th, 2012 (11:48 am)

    nasaman: Believe it or not, a company called FLUX Power is giving life to a new car, an electric-powered DeLorean DMC-12 EV.

    #7

    Watch out Tesla, LOL.

    I had the sad occasion yesterday to explain to someone that the Tesla Roadster was being discontinued. Maybe this will be the replacement?


  12. 12
    Noel Park

     

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    Mar 29th, 2012 (11:50 am)

    There have been several disasters in the trash/poo to energy arena. Plants that burn trash tend to have emissions problems. A huge multi-million dollar poo to energy plant here in LA failed completely and was abandoned.

    I hope it works, but they need to be very careful.


  13. 13
    Jackson

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    Mar 29th, 2012 (11:53 am)

    It’s been done:

    14in60h.jpg

    Note that the driver doubles as the ‘range extender.’
    ;-)


  14. 14
    kdawg

     

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    Mar 29th, 2012 (1:26 pm)

    Instead of burning the ‘dung’, couldn’t they just put it in a compost pit and collect the methane? Burning methane is cleaner than burning the waste directly.


  15. 15
    Loboc

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    Mar 29th, 2012 (1:56 pm)

    kdawg:
    Instead of burning the ‘dung’, couldn’t they just put it in a compost pit and collect the methane?Burning methane is cleaner than burning the waste directly.

    That’s what I was thinking. There are commercial poop-eating-machines that do the conversion. I think they are called ‘digesters’ or something like that. And what’s left can be used as fertilizer.

    Don’t have a link right now.


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    kdawg

     

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    Mar 29th, 2012 (2:29 pm)

    We could try to catch up to high-tech country of Pakistan (LOL)! Seriously, they have been using natural gas trikes for a decade.

    http://www.nashuatelegraph.com/news/953237-196/pakistan-ahead-of-curve-on-compressed-natural.html

    natgastrike.jpg


  17. 17
    Noel Park

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    Mar 29th, 2012 (4:21 pm)

    Loboc: That’s what I was thinking. There are commercial poop-eating-machines that do the conversion. I think they are called ‘digesters’ or something like that. And what’s left can be used as fertilizer.

    Don’t have a link right now.

    #15

    The trash to energy incinerators I was talking about burn household waste, paper, garbage, basically the general run of the trash cans. My sense of it was that this is a component of the project described above. Maybe they have a cleaner way to do it. I hope so.

    To be more clear, the local sewage treatment plant I referred to does have digesters, which do produce methane that is burned in generators to produce electricity. They also leave behind a product called “digested sludge”. For many years this was dumped in the ocean until the EPA put a stop to it. The project which failed was an attempt to somehow burn the sludge and produce electricity with the heat. One of the units exploded during testing, killing one or more construction workers. The project was then abandoned, tens of millions of dollars having been spent. The City of LA then bought a huge ranch in Kern County, over 100 miles away. The sludge is trucked over 100 miles to the ranch and dumped to “fertilize” the land. The pushback from Kern county residents has become intense, so no one knows how long this will continue. What is “Plan C”? Who knows?


  18. 18
    Jeff Cobb

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    Mar 29th, 2012 (6:14 pm)

    If anyone thinks this article was a waste of time, sorry you feel that way.

    It is about a solution for which the jury is still out – it says they are working on a prototype power generation facility.

    The story is not about us all converting to rickshaws! It is about power generation using waste, and the rickshaw, as the story says, is just a test bed for a much larger project that could save this one facility mid-six figures annually, with broad potential beyond for others to follow if it works.

    I may very well try to follow up with these engineers and see if they can make a more compelling case for their work.

    I thought GM-Volt readers might appreciate the novelty of it, and thought it was clear:

    “Equally true – within qualified terms – is that if this energy generation technology proves out, it could be used for a number of applications.

    “This is not just a zoo thing,” said the zoo’s sustainability manager, Jennifer Hale. “It can be applied on campuses, in communities and many other environments.”

    If they are onto something that could really work, it’s potentially an elegant solution to take the most useless materials and convert them to the most useful.

    I recognize some have said similar efforts have been tried before, but a conclusion with this project has not been made, the people working are obviously concerned about sustainability, so I give benefit of the doubt. I think with what we know, that is logical.

    Thanks for your support.

    Regards,

    Jeff


  19. 19
    Noel Park

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    Mar 29th, 2012 (7:20 pm)

    Jeff Cobb: If they are onto something that could really work, it’s potentially an elegant solution to take the most useless materials and convert them to the most useful.

    #19

    I totally agree with that. +1

    I would welcome more details of how the waste conversion thing is supposed to work. All I am saying is that the law of unintended consequences is ever lurking and has surfaced with a revenge on some previous projects of this type.

    Not unlike automotive startups, LOL.


  20. 20
    N Riley

     

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    Mar 30th, 2012 (11:44 pm)

    Another small step for mankind?


  21. 21
    Bradly Rodriguez

     

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    Apr 13th, 2012 (12:38 pm)

    I have to agree entirely, but if a call is made, don’t we still need to go ahead? I’m in agreement, but what are the alternatives? Good postthough. Thanks.


  22. 22
    Archie Baeringer

     

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    Apr 20th, 2012 (11:18 pm)

    Thank you The Law Insider for your review of Make It Your Own Law Firm. As a practicing attorney in Miami for over 20 years I understand the difficulties facing the next generation of lawyers who are facing an over saturated legal job market often without being provided the tools needed to succeed.