Britain’s poo-powered bus breaks speed record

Chuck Bednar for redOrbit.com – @BednarChuck

A British bus setting a new land-speed record of 76.8 miles per hour is a mildly interesting story, but not one that would be expected to garner many headlines – except for the fact that the vehicle responsible for the feat just happens to be powered by cow poop.

As reported over the weekend by Ars Technica and Gizmodo, the poo-powered bus was able to reach record speeds at the Millbrook Proving Ground in Bedfordshire, England. While the bus ordinarily is limited to speeds of just 56 mph (90 kph), it was able to reach a blistering top speed of 76.785mph (123.5kph), as confirmed by the UK Timing Association.

While reports indicate that this is a record for a regular service bus, executives at Reading Buses, the company that operates the vehicle, told BBC News that it would not be officially recognized as a Guinness World Record unless it could reach speeds of more than 150mph (241km/h). Still, it is a rather impressive feat for a bus that uses poop as fuel.

Poo infinity…and beyond!

Named the “Bus Hound” as a nod to the British-developed Bloodhound supersonic car, the bus runs on biomethane produced by the anaerobic digestion of cow droppings in a bioreactor, said Gizmodo. This methane is compressed, liquefied, and stored in a series of tanks fastened to the roof. Ars Technica said that the fuel is comparable to compressed natural gas (CNG).

Chief engineer John Bickerton told BBC News that the company wanted to establish the “world’s first service bus speed record” with their bus (which is painted to looks like a cow) in order to increase awareness of the power, viability, and credibly of their biomethane-powered vehicle.

“We’ve laid down a challenge for other bus operators to best our record and we had to make it a bit hard for them. Most importantly we wanted to get the image of bus transport away from being dirty, smelly, and slow,” he said, adding that the bus “was an impressive sight… on the track. It sounded like a Vulcan bomber – the aerodynamics aren’t designed for going 80 mph.”

As Ars Technica points out, the biomethane used by the bus is a greener alternative to gasoline, natural gas, or other fossil fuels, and combusts methane that ordinarily would have wound up in the atmosphere as a greenhouse gas. However, the Bus Hound does have competition in the form of a human poo-powered bus created by GENeco.

Only time will tell which will wind up being the fastest.

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