Biomass Powered Cars: Time for a Comeback?

wood biomass powered car photo parked

All images from Low Tech Magazine

Kris De Decker of Low Tech Magazine looks at wood-powered cars. During WWII they were everywhere, and drivers almost deforested France powering them. Most biofuel ideas go through the process of converting biomass to ethanol or biodiesel, which takes some energy on its own. These cars work by gasifying wood and burning that more directly. Burning wood or scraps is thought by some to be carbon neutral, and these babies can burn just about anything. Kris calls them wood gas vehicles, but saying biomass is much more sexy.
wood biomass powered car photo joost conjin

Joost Conjin not only built this car out of wood, but toured Europe and made a movie of it. "You can go around the world with a saw and an axe." And, having built the car out of wood, you can practice Douglas Campbell's line from the great Stars song: "when there's nothing left to burn, you have to set yourself on fire."

wood biomass powered car photo nichols

In America, the pickup truck is the vehicle of choice, and Dave Nichols runs his on just about anything. Shea Gunther caught him on video last summer, noting that "the thing can be powered by anything this side of dirt, broken glass or rocks."

wood biomass powered car photo process

In the end, Kris acknowledges that there are disadvantages to a wood powered car; they are heavy, and we would deforest the planet. On the other hand,

If you need to preheat your car for 10 minutes, chances are you will decide not to use it to drive a few miles to pick up some groceries. A bicycle would do the job faster. If you had to cut wood for three hours just to make a trip to the beach, you would probably decide to take the train.

Make driving expensive enough and difficult enough, and the alternatives start looking pretty good. Read the whole thing at Low Tech Magazine

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