It's for real and it made the news yesterday at the Denver Zoo: a tuk tuk powered by human trash and animal droppings is believed to be the first hybrid-electric gasified tuk tuk. The fuel source is gasified pellets made from animal droppings and trash generated by zoo visitors and employees.
The three-wheeled motorized tuk tuk will be part of a larger innovative energy system, expected to be complete by the end of the year, that will convert more than 90 percent of the zoo's waste — 1.5 million pounds annually — into energy.
The Denver Post has more on the history of the project:
And more straight from the Denver Zoo:
This idea — which is now patent pending — began eight years ago during the early planning for the Elephant Passage. Cutting down energy use was a priority, and as a result, a three-person engineering team was commissioned to develop alternative options. It started with consumption analysis.
"These guys spent a lot of time in Dumpsters figuring out what kind of trash we produce," Barnhart said.
"We wanted an innovative energy solution that would help us eliminate our landfill waste. We immediately considered ways to create energy from animal poop and human trash. The result is astounding - an energy solution that can create clean energy from trash," says VP for Planning and Capital Projects George Pond.
This unique technology developed by the zoo, designed and built by three full-time staff, is under provisional patent protection and will be the first to utilize a diverse on-site waste stream, a breakthrough that could change how the world manages waste and creates energy.
The zoo expects to offset 20 percent of its overall energy consumption using the system, but the possibilities are much broader than just Denver or just zoos.
"This is not just a zoo thing," said zoo sustainability manager Jennifer Hale, according to the Denver Post. "It can be applied on campuses, in communities and many other environments."