Zooming around the Millbrook Proving Ground in Bedfordshire in England at a top speed of 123.5 km/h (76.785 miles/h), a bus that runs on cow manure has broken the land speed record for a public service bus.
Operated by British transport company, Reading Buses, the bus runs on a biomethane-compressed natural gas, which is produced when masses of bacteria digest cow manure inside a bioreactor. This gas is captured, compressed, and liquefied, and then stored in seven tanks that have been installed in the bus’s roof. "Liquefied biomethane is very similar to compressed natural gas (CNG), which can be used with slightly modified internal combustion engines," Sebastian Anthony reports for Ars Technica.
As you can see in the video below, it wasn’t exactly a quiet trip. "It sounded like a Vulcan bomber," chief engineer at Reading Buses, John Bickerton, told the BBC. "The aerodynamics aren't designed for going 80 mph." In regular use, the bus will be limited to speeds of around 90 km/h (56 miles/h).
The stunt was an effort to highlight just how great something that runs on cow manure can actually be. While biomethane is certainly better for the environment than petrol or natural gas - because you’re recycling something that would normally be released into the atmosphere as a more potent form of greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide - some people might be put off by the 'gross factor'. "We wanted to get the image of bus transport away from being dirty, smelly, and slow," Bickerton told the BBC. "We're modern, fast, and at the cutting edge of innovation."
Not that cow manure is all that hard to come to terms with - people willingly buy bags of the stuff and throw it all over their gardens, after all. A tougher sell was Britain’s other poop-powered service bus, which runs on human poop and food waste, but it’s already up and running and transporting about 10,000 passengers each month along an airport route.
The future, my friends, is fuelled by poop.