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Bang goes the coffee-powered car

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David Gregory | 16:26 UK time, Thursday, 11 March 2010

Jem and his coffee-powered carHere's Jem from "Bang Goes the Theory" ready to drive to Birmingham in his car powered by coffee grounds. And very early this morning off they set from BBC Television Centre at around 3am. It's certainly got plenty of attention.

Yan enjoys a coffeeFast forward to 8am and I turn up at Thinktank to welcome the car to Birmingham and wish it all the best as it pushes on to Manchester and its final stop at "The Big Bang Fair".

Word arrives from the support vehicle that the car is having a few difficulties. The M1 has been closed because of an accident and the car isn't coping very well with being stuck in traffic. Eventually the "car-puccino" makes it to Northampton and then breaks down at the service station.

Meanwhile Yan from the "Bang" team and I settle down to wait and generate some more coffee grounds to help fuel the car.

So how does it work? Well the team collected used coffee grounds from coffee shops. These were turned into pellets and are then placed in a charcoal boiler on the back of the car where they are heated up to 700c producing ash and also flammable hydrogen and carbon monoxide. The gases are then filtered and used to power the £400 secondhand Volkswagen Scirocco.

The big problems being the filters which need to be cleaned out every twenty or so miles and the refuelling which is every sixty. Combine this with a top speed of fifty miles an hour and even setting off at 3am it was clear an arrival time of 8am was perhaps optimistic. Here's Jem explaining things in more detail.

Twelve hours later and the car still hadn't arrived in Birmingham and the support team who had made it departed to attempt some running repairs on the M1 and then push on to Manchester. Sadly we can't film on the hard shoulder of a motorway so we had to call it a day.

The good news is the "Bang" team will be back in Birmingham with their live show in the summer and dates will be announced soon on their website.

Will the coffee-powered car be there? Well possibly. As we learnt today innovative new ideas aren't always the most reliable. Perhaps the fastest way to get from London to Birmingham in the future won't be the "car-puccino" but this instead.

UPDATE: The car finally made it to Manchester at 10pm last night. So London to Manchester via Birmingham in around 17 hours!


"Bang Goes the Theory" returns to BBC One at 1930 on the 15th of March.

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