You’ve probably watched this scene in a movie or on TV: Someone runs out of gas, but manages to get on the road again by pouring alcohol in the tank. But is this realistic? Could a person really find a potable potent enough to turn over an engine? Some moonshine, maybe?
Actually, the gasoline used to run modern cars contains ethanol (drinking alcohol). Even from the beginning, alcohol and cars were linked. Henry Ford’s Model T was designed to run on ethanol as well as gasoline.
With this history in mind, the latest development is less surprising, although still impressive: A company in Scotland has created a new biofuel…using whiskey waste products.
Whiskey Goes Green
Whiskey manufacturing produces incredible amounts of waste. In fact, 90 percent of each whiskey manufacturer’s output is waste. This includes a beer-like byproduct called pot ale and leftover kernels of barley called draff.
What do manufacturers do with all this pot ale and draff? Most of it is simply dumped in the ocean. Scotland-based Celtic Renewables wants to change that. The company has created a design that uses biobutanol, a fuel made from these byproducts.
Professor Martin Tangney, Celtic Renewables founder and president, explained, “What we developed was a process to combine the liquid with the solid, and used an entirely different traditional fermentation process called ABE, and it makes the chemical called biobutanol.”
In addition to keeping all that waste out of the ocean, the new energy source offers two significant advantages:
- Biobutanol could yield 25 percent more energy than the ethanol used in fuels today.
- Current car engines don’t have to be altered to use the new fuel.
Drinking to Drive
The first test drive of a biobutanol-powered vehicle was a complete success. It took place in Scotland, which is a fitting locale considering the nation is world-famous for whiskey and renewable energy. The journalist behind the wheel reported the ride was smooth and demonstrated no noticeable differences than a drive in a traditionally-fueled car. It was “the first time in history that a car has been driven with a biofuel produced from whiskey production residues,” noted Tangney.
The company hopes that their whiskey-powered resource will spread worldwide as a replacement for gasoline. They have sights set on their fellow whiskey-producing countries, including Japan, India, and the US to grow the industry. With global potential, this solution could create a $129 million industry in Scotland alone.
Now that’s a strong drink!
Additional Reading: Fact or Fiction? Busting 6 Alcohol Myths
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