This is such a cool idea that I just had to come at it, even though I’m a few months behind on the original announcement. In September, 2009, a new car aptly named the “Algaeus” completed it’s cross country tour successfully and refueled the idea that algae might bring natural solutions to our high tech problems after all. The algae fueled car traveled 3,750 miles across the country, spreading the word of new possibilities. After it completed it’s tour, it then joined the “Green Energy Bus”, the Veggie Van Organization and the FUEL team for a college tour to further spread the green word. The “Green Energy Bus” is a retrofit interactive classroom that shows students just how the new concept works.

The Algaeus is the brainchild of Sapphire Energy, the leader in algae-based renewable fuel, who joined with the team behind the award winning film FUEL, to complete the first cross-country car tour powered by a blend of algae-based gasoline in an unmodified engine. It took a total of 10 days after starting in San Fransisco and making it’s way to New York City, to which it arrived on September 18. The Algaeus presents a tantalizing peek into a very likely future which excites me. Sapphire Energy provides the fuel for the extraordinary car, containing a mixture of hydrocarbons refined directly from algae-based Green Crude and extracted through Sapphire’s proprietary process. However, there really is nothing extraordinary about the car in reality. It could be your car, the way things are hopefully going to turn out!

Based on a 2008 Toyota Prius that has been given an added battery pack, a plug and an advanced energy management system, the “Algaeus” got an average of 147 mpg city in PHEV (plug in electric hybrid) mode and 52mpg highway in hybrid mode on the cross country tour. These are great numbers but what I truly love is the flexibility. This gives the driver more control over how the car operates, switching back and forth from mode to mode as desired.

According to the CEO of Sapphire Energy, Mr. Jason Pyle, “America has the opportunity to usher in a new, prosperous Green Age, by moving from ‘black’ to ‘green’ crude, while bettering the environment and solidifying energy security. We have all that we need at home to produce fuels from algae at a commercial scale in just a few years. The Algaeus is an example of a better solution that is domestically produced and climate friendly.”

Sponsored by the Veggie Van Organization, the cross-country trip celebrated the nationwide premiere of FUEL, a movie that opened in theaters this past fall. The movie aimed to inspire green energy solution thinking, such as the Algaeus. I have seen a lot of eco documentaries since then and I have been getting more and more inspired myself. I am currently building furniture for my own home out of discarded stuff, including plastic bottles, cardboard and tin cans. I am amazed at the imagination of some of the stuff I’ve seen so I’m pushing myself to be creative, too.

This car is inspirational, too. I mean, seriously, algae is everywhere and often a problem so it’s a great solution. The chemical dump we have out here off the coast of Florida floats around the state every year and stimulates a deadly algae bloom that kills of wildlife and has most of us choking and hiding in the home. Think of fishing all of that crap out of the ocean and then running our cars on it? What better solution could there be?

According to the creator of the Veggie Van Organization, Josh Tickell, who is also the director of the movie, FUEL, “I thank Sapphire Energy for the incredible technology and trust they’ve placed in our hands to take this vehicle across the country with what is, today, perhaps the most advanced fuel on planet earth. We’ve been petroleum dependent for 150 years and something has to change. We can sustain every human being with this kind of new technology.”

To no one’s surprise, the algae-based fuel performed flawlessly. Josh Tickell and FUEL Producer, Rebecca Harrell, were behind the wheel for the entire 10-day trip and reported back that the algae fuel blend provided a fun and reliable driving experience. I realize they had a dog in the fight so they were tilted towards a positive review no matter what, but I truly believe this is honest. I have no reason to believe otherwise, having read so much on the science dailies and the green blogs about algae and the results of all the work they’ve done with it thus far.

“It flew up the mountain passes in Utah and Wyoming, was fast on the straight-aways, and zipped around cities with gusto” said Tickell. The duo recorded no loss in engine power, speed or acceleration with the small engine easily producing up to 20 kW of power. And boy does this make it hopeful over others! I mean, electric cars look like a bust to me, driving up the home electricity bill and running at low speeds with poor performance. Corn oil cars are also problematic because they do produce CO2 at various levels, the least of which is not the farm. I mean, seriously. Do we need to chop down even more trees in order to grow Corn? Does that make sense to you?

On the tour, the Algaeus got tremendous exposure, which is much needed and valuable to the outcome of affairs. It was greeted by thousands of constituents and dozens of high-ranking elected officials on the round, passing through Washington, DC on the last leg and still running like a charm. Of course, there was a capitol press conference, which was predictably held by Congressman Steve Israel (D-NY), co-chair of the Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition, members of Congress and celebrities Carol King and James Kyson Lee, as they emphasized the absolute urgency of driving green innovation. These are the same people who have been tooting the horn for green energy for years. But their support for this project is needed none the less as they try to make inroads among corporations that control our markets now. So far, the current crowd wants to maintain the status quo. I guess as long as Wall Street rakes it in, Main Street can just take it you know where. I am tired of that. Aren’t you? Why should we keep paying a fortune for gasoline at the price of the planet when these kind of solutions exist?

In response to his exposure to the cool new car, Congressman Jay Inslee (D-WA), had this to say: “The advanced energy technology to revolutionize the auto industry and end our dependence on foreign oil is there. Now it is time for us to put it into action. We must keep working to fully commercialize these technologies to ensure they are produced here in the US, so Americans and American workers see the full benefit.”

As a result of the college tour, the benefits of algae was highlighted in many on-campus screening events showcasing FUEL. Sapphire Energy and its partners were hoping to inspire students, the up and coming inventors of our future, to do their part to support renewable fuel. This is the future I hope for and cannot wait to see come to pass. What about you? Do you think this is a good idea? Would you drive a car that ran on algae.. a car like the Algaeus?

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