There's something about the Toyota Prius that makes people want to modify it. Maybe it's the Hybrid Synergy Drive system, maybe it's the electric running, maybe it's even the car's shape. We're not quite sure.
Now, joining the growing parade of Prius plug-in conversions (whether professional or even do-it-yourself) is one with a new twist: the "Algaeus" from Veggie Van Organization in Santa Monica, California. It runs on...algae!
Plug-in PLUS algae
It wasn't enough to convert the 2008 Toyota Prius to a plug-in hybrid, so it could run longer distances in electric mode and recharge by plugging into the grid. This one also runs on a biofuel derived (partly) from algae that's grown specifically to provide fuel.
The high-octane gasoline blend that fuels the Prius engine runs on biofuel from Sapphire Energy in San Diego. It mixes "hydrocarbons refined directly from algae-based Green Crude, extracted through [our] proprietary process, and fossil fuels," the company says.
The socket in the bumper shows that this Prius can recharge on grid power
Build Your Own Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle, by Seth Leitman
150 mpg? Yeah, well...
Algaeus promoters are touting a figure of "150 miles per gallon," but like all such outlandish figures (including GM's 230-mpg claim for its 2011 Chevy Volt), this one requires a number of very specific assumptions.
That's actually miles per gallon of crude-oil-extracted gasoline, for example. The algae fuel doesn't count. Neither does any fuel that generates the electricity that recharges the battery when it's plugged in.
Many methods for biofuels
Running cars at least partly on biofuels, from ethanol to more exotic concoctions, is one route toward reducing overall gasoline consumption. Scientists and startup companies are intensively researching many different methods of producing them.
One is refining feedstocks that could include wood waste, agricultural leftovers, even municipal garbage. Another is genetically engineering microbes that excrete fuels directly. And much energy is being put into the potential for intensive growth of algae using solar energy.
Tour across America
The Algaeus is on a 30-day cross-country tour that kicked off yesterday in San Francisco. Other stops include Sacramento (Sept. 9th), Salt Lake City (Sept. 10th), Cheyenne, WY (Sept. 11th), Lincoln, NE (Sept. 12th), Chicago, IL (Sept. 13th), Detroit, MI (Sept. 14th), Cleveland, OH (Sept. 15th), Erie, PA (Sept. 16th), Washington DC (Sept. 17th), and New York City (Sept. 18th).