According to this 1971 article from Mother Earth News, British chicken farmer Harold Bate invented a car that runs on animal droppings 40 years ago. Why the hell are we still using oil?
Bate invented a converter that reportedly recycles animal (or human) waste into methane gas — and he ginned it up from “odds and ends at hand.” To be fair, using the converter is a pretty involved process, requiring 300 pounds of manure that has been fermented for up to a week. But on the flip side, Bate estimated it only cost him 3 cents (17 cents in 2011 money) for the equivalent of a gallon of gasoline.
Once he had a guaranteed supply of methane, Harold next faced the problem of getting the high-pressure gas into his car’s engine in the exact amount required by the power plants under all operating conditions. His answer, of course, was the now-famous 6″ x 5″ carburetor attachment which he calls the Bate Auto Gas Converter.
The attachment (it looks like a model flying saucer) fits between the methane pressure bottle and the car’s carburetor and allows the cylinders of the engine to suck just enough methane–and no more-from the bottle as the fuel is needed. The only modification made on the engine itself is the simple tubular jet which is threaded into the choke tube of the carburetor before the throttle butterfly valve. A run of rubber tubing connects this to the Bate converter and a further run goes back to wherever the methane bottle is carried. No mechanical linkage or other complicated modification is necessary.
Mother Earth News reported that “hundreds of people … are now driving chicken-powered cars the world over,” but Bate’s invention never did really catch on. Maybe because of the 300 pounds of fermented manure.
Here’s a long-ass video of Bate and his car: