Algaeus visits the Capitol. Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) was among those saluting. (Sapphire Energy photo)
You can always get press when you travel cross country--walking, bicycling, hopping on one foot, riding a horse, an antique car or--better yet--a green one. That's just what the media-savvy Josh Tickell, director of the new film Fuel and author of Biodiesel America, just did. He's just driven cross-country in what he calls "Algaeus," a Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid running on gasoline fuel made from algae.
Yes, it is possible to make gasoline (and diesel or jet fuel) from algae, or indeed any biomass, from wood chips and sawgrass to sawdust. A variety of big players are working on the technology, and generally agree that is both challenging and promising as raw material for fuel.
Algaeus is not inherently more fuel efficient on algae than it is on standard gasoline, but because the car is a plug-in hybrid conversion (built by Kim Adelman for Plug-In Prius Conversions in San Diego) Tickell can claim incredible mileage: 147 city (when it's operating on battery electricity) and 52 highway (the Prius standard).
Tickell says that the algae fuel (which came along on a trailer, in big metal jugs) was made by Sapphire Energy, also in San Diego. "We've been working with Sapphire for a while," Tickell said. "We're really excited about the technology. As with other things, there will be winners and losers with algae."
The Prius, emblazoned with slogans, made it 3,750 miles across the country, from San Francisco to New York with a stopover in Washington, DC, in 10 days, accompanied by a five-vehicle entourage. Tickell said the algae car yielded "exceptional performance. We exceeded all speed limits." The conversion is actually capable of 70 mph in battery mode, but the Algaeus team didn't push their luck.
Cross-country drives are just one of Tickell's projects. He has a new book on saving $5,000 a year by going green, and another on the amazing properties of algae. And his new film Fuel is coming out. Here's a look at the film:
"It's about solutions," Tickell said. "It starts with my personal history in Louisiana growing up near oil refineries. And it talks about what can be done. We need a barrel of solutions to replace barrels of oil. These include sustainable biofuels, wind, biomass, plug-in hybrids and public transportation." He also thinks battery electrics are "great."
At home, Tickell tries to avoid using gasoline in his plug-in Prius. "I kick myself if I forget to plug it in, because that means I can't run on battery power."
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