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Pee Power: Could Urine Help Charge EVs?

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diesel and AdBlue fillers in Audi Q7 TDI

diesel and AdBlue fillers in Audi Q7 TDI

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Could a compound in urine be used to generate electricity, even for vehicles?

It's a possibility. According to a report, two postdocs at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland, are generating electricity with a new type of fuel-cell prototype—one that uses urea, or carbamide, a compound that's present in urine.

Over the past couple of years, several automakers have started to use a small tank of liquid urea solution, called AdBlue, to help reduce nitrous oxide (NOx) emissions—in vehicles including Bluetec versions of the Mercedes-Benz ML-Class, R-Class, and GL-Class, as well as Audi and Volkswagen's V-6-powered TDI vehicles and the BMW X5 and 335d. It's a solution that's also seen some applications in the trucking industry. But no, you can't simply pee in the tank, in those vehicles, to keep that tank topped off.

The so-called Carbamide Power System breaks urine or urea—sourced from animals or people—down into nitrogen, CO2, and water, while generating electricity.

There's no word yet on exactly how much electricity could be generated per amount of urea, or what sort of production scale is viable. But at the very least, it sounds like a new way for wastewater-treatment plants—which already separate urea from wastewater—to potentially give back to the grid and help supplement the future power demands of electric vehicles.

[INA, via Yahoo News]
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  1. This gives a whole new perspective of pulling over to the side of the road to relieve yourself. You could just tell the officer you were saving the environment and Filling up your tank at the same time. Seriously, anything we can do to either improve our current mileage on vehicles, or find ways to replace our need for petroleum products, is great by me.
     
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