Slime-powered Toyota Prius demoed

Schwarzenegger to test motor's mettle

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Leccy Tech With pee-powered cars a very real possibility, it shouldn't come as a shock that we may soon be driving vehicles that run on green slime.

Well, algae, to be more precise. The Algaeus is a modified plug-in hybrid Toyota Prius that, instead of unleaded, uses an algal biofuel developed by Sapphire Energy.

Sapphire grows the algae in salt-water ponds at a plant in New Mexico. Add a little CO2, a sprinkling of sunlight and - with the help of a proprietary microbial process - you end up with a hydrocarbon fuel that Sapphire CEO Jason Pyle said is neither alcohol-based nor an additive.

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The Algaeus: runs on algae

On the face of it, Sapphire’s fuel seems a sound idea. You have a method of fuel generation that doesn't rely on fresh water, doesn't needlessly use up valuable farmland and eats up CO2 emitted by other industrial processes.

Sapphire has already raised $100m (£61m/€69m) in venture capital and signed contracts with Boeing and Continental Airlines to develop algal aviation fuels.

The firm is also working on a new demonstration facility capable of producing 2m gallons of auto fuel and 1m gallons of jet fuel each year.

Those figures are a long way from the sort of the production scale needed to have any real impact on North America’s fossil fuel demand, but it’s a start.

The Algaeus car is currently on a ten-day tour of North America, which will include a stopover in Sacramento where Governor Schwarzenegger is apparently planning to pour a container of the green slime into the car's fuel tank. ®

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