Poop-powered zoo cart a dung deal in Denver

A gasification system is set to convert more than 90 percent of the Denver Zoo's waste into energy that can, among other things, fuel a rickshaw.

Tim Hornyak
Crave freelancer Tim Hornyak is the author of "Loving the Machine: The Art and Science of Japanese Robots." He has been writing about Japanese culture and technology for a decade. E-mail Tim.
Tim Hornyak
2 min read
Video screenshot by Tim Hornyak/CNET

The Denver Zoo is rolling out a motorized rickshaw that has been converted to run on animal droppings. It might help save a bundle.

Imported from Thailand, the tuk-tuk is about 20 years old, but it has been given a new lease on life from engineers at the zoo.

The electric three-wheeler runs on gasified pellets made from animal poop, as well as trash produced by zoo visitors and staff.

A heater on the back of the prototype vehicle turns the pellets into syngas, which is used to generate electricity to power the tuk-tuk.

The rickshaw can move at least 10 mph and has been out on a road tour, a so-called Tour de Tuk Tuk, stopping in zoos in Colorado Springs, Albuquerque, and Phoenix.

The poo-mobile is designed to showcase the gasification technology that will fuel the Denver Zoo's new Toyota Elephant Passage exhibit, a 10-acre space that opens in June.

"Furthering the zoo's efforts to be a national leader in sustainability, the gasification system will convert more than 90 percent of the zoo's waste into usable energy, eliminating 1.5 million pounds of trash currently going to landfills annually," the zoo said in a release.

"We wanted an innovative energy solution that would help us eliminate our landfill waste," the zoo's George Pond was quoted as saying. "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."

It could end up saving as much as $150,000 a year on hauling costs, according to The Denver Post. Check out its video below.

Zoo staff also say the power system could also be used on university campuses and by businesses.

Meanwhile, the zoo has claimed a patent on the technology behind the tuk-tuk. I can't wait for it to inspire legions of pooped-up cars.

(Via The Denver Post)