We've done a few stories on things powered by poop. Well, there's a new sheriff in poop town — the Denver Zoo's little three-wheeled truck
converted to use zoo poop as fuel.
This isn't just another quirky story about a prototype to make us laugh. This is a real, working vehicle, making use of something the zoo has a fair amount of on hand to launch the Zoo's larger sustainability program.
The truck is really a 20-year-old taxi from Thailand called a tuk-tuk. The Zoo's mechanical engineers take waste — of both the animal and dumpster variety - and compresses it into hard pellets. The pellets are then added to a special engine mounted on the back of the tuk-tuk, where they are subjected to high heat without any oxygen present.
This super heating creates something called syngas — which contains carbon dioxide and hydrogen. These gasses are burned and that creates energy. That energy is stored in a generator and ultimately powers the batteries that make the little electric vehicle go.
And if you think the little taxi is cool, consider that these forward thinking zookeepers and engineers tried the technology to power a margarita machine first. We wish we had video of that…
Speaking of forward thinking, the tuk-tuk is a goodwill ambassador to help people get used to the idea that the Zoo will eventually be converting 90% of its waste into renewable energy. The next step is using the poop pellet system to power generators to run a new Elephant exhibit opening in June.
Until then, expect to see the tuk-tuk poop truck blazing around the Denver Zoo at 10 mph driven by some pretty proud engineers who aren't afraid to spread the message that waste is wonderful.