Forget hydrogen, could wood powered cars be the future?

While scientists are busy developing new ways to power our cars like solar, and hydrogen, a bunch of backyard tinkerers in Europe have cast their minds back to World War II, when extreme fuel shortages also forced people to find new ways to power their vehicles.

This old Volvo modified by a guy calling himself Dutch John, uses a popular WWII process called wood gasification, where freshly cut wood chips are heated until they release gasses that can be used to run the engine. The catch is that you need to heat the wood up to around 2,500 degrees F, so you probably don't want to mount the gasification unit under your seat. A typical 60 pound load of chips is good for about 60 miles, so the range is comparable to electric cars.

Environmentalists point out that wood is a sustainable resource, but also warn that if too many people start using wood power, there won't be enough room on the planet for the number of trees needed to go around. Because the wood isn't actually burned vehicle emissions are actually quite low, and the degassed wood can still be used as a fuel for burning.

Wood gas may not be a panacea that can solve our oil addiction, but it does show that it sometimes pays to look backwards, as well as forwards for solutions.

Low Tech Magazine, via Treehugger.com