Coffee-powered car does London-Manchester

A car fuelled by coffee and dubbed the "car-puccino" was cheered through the streets of Manchester as it completed a 250-mile (400km) journey.

The vehicle powered by nothing but used coffee grounds required the left-overs from more than 11,000 espressos to complete the trip from London, interrupted by refuelling coffee stops every 60 miles.

The car, based on a 1988 VW Scirocco bought on eBay for £400, was the creation of engineer Jem Stansfield, presenter of the BBC1 show Bang Goes The Theory. A furnace in the boot roasted coffee grounds to generate flammable vapours that fuelled the engine.

Stansfield's route from BBC TV Centre in London took him through Birmingham, Coventry and Crewe. Dermot Caulfield, series editor on the show said the trip took approximately 17 hours after being hampered by heavy tailbacks, but the car pulled through.

He said: "We just picked a day when the British motorways decided to clog up. Sitting in traffic for hour after hour given the delicacy of the engine wasn't the greatest thing in the world, but we just kept meeting people who were able to help us.

"The way the engine worked, we had to stop every 60-70 miles to ensure the filters were clean. Every third stop we gave it a really good going over, but because we got caught in traffic it put pressure on the engine.

"It didn't necessarily break down, we just had to make sure it wasn't overheating and cool it down.

He described the trip's finale as "very emotional" with cab drivers tooting their horns and people waving and shouting as the car, which resembles the Back To The Future DeLorean, neared the finish at the Big Bang science fair in Manchester's city centre.

Speaking earlier about the car's set up, Jem said the car reached speeds of 55 to 70mph. He said: "You've got to get the gas production to match what the vehicle needs depending on what it's doing.

"Effectively, it's a charcoal burner. If you get it wrong the engine starts drawing more gas from the burner and the whole thing runs away from itself."

The coffee was fed into the furnace from a hopper containing about two shopping bags of grounds. Extra bags were carried in a following "support vehicle".

He added: "On the motorway it's an absolute joy to drive. There's no occasional misfiring; it purrs along. It's going to be a bit of a come down getting back in a normal car."

The idea was to demonstrate how a cheap and easily obtainable waste product can be used to generate energy.

Stansfield was inspired while sitting in a Sainsbury's supermarket cafe when he spotted a sign offering shoppers free used coffee grounds.

He added: "My mum used to use them to keep slugs off her carrots. It occurred to me that there must be hundreds of kilos of coffee grounds thrown away every day. At that point I thought this might just work."

Research revealed coffee grounds had a higher energy content and produced less ash when burned than waste paper, leaves or wood.

With limited funding from the BBC - amounting to just £700 - Stansfield and a group of helpers built the vehicle at his home in Brighton. After a short test run of 10 miles, the "car-puccino" was transported to BBC TV Centre in London's White City for the start of its journey to Manchester.

The trip will feature in the new series of Jem's TV show which starts next Monday.


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