ALBANY, NY (CAP) - It's a position Dawn Flanders has been in before: halfway between Albany and Buffalo on a twice-monthly business trip and feeling the need for both a rest stop and a tank fill-up. Previously she'd have to lose precious time getting off the main highway to search for both, but not today. This day, Dawn is driving a PUV.
"I just raised up the seat cover, dropped my skirt and started filling up the tank," Dawn recalls. "It was really convenient, and no one driving around me had any idea, although I have no idea what they thought of what my husband calls my cute little poo faces.
"I got to Buffalo in record time, and never had to stop once the whole trip to fill up. Thanks, PUV!"
Dawn's savior on this trip was the Precipitate Utilization Vehicle (PUV, or Poo-Using Vehicle to its admirers), a green-concept car being tested by Albany-based Empire State Motors. The PUV runs almost entirely on human defecation, a first in an industry eager for innovative ways to counter gas prices nearing $4 a gallon. Only a small amount of gasoline is used to "sweeten" the mix and bring it to a proper combustion level.
"First off, I have to stress that the story you mention is not standard for the PUV," says Empire State Motors CEO Larry Kellerman. "What the lady in question is using is called an in-trip collection device, and it's about the most experimental part of our experimental car. Most don't come equipped with toilets, yet."
CEO Kellerman goes on to explain that the vehicle is mostly fueled up through a tray that opens in the rear of the vehicle. A bucket of excrement is poured into the tank through the tray, where it is filtered, treated and sweetened with gas to produce a fuel slurry capable of reaching burning temperatures slightly greater than that of gasoline alone.
"A well-fed family of five can get about 800 miles out of a tank before having to stop and refuel," Kellerman says. "If you're just bopping around town, even a person of slight build with a little Taco Bell in them should have no problems. So long as you remember to carry a bucket, keep a gallon or two of regular gas in the car, and eat regularly, your fuel needs will be met."
The car is not without its critics. A coalition that has been fighting two-handed masturbation while driving has come out against the vehicle, claiming that defecating while driving would be an unnecessary distraction. Others stress safety concerns with the in-trip collection device and the proposed privacy curtains that would come standard with the device.
For most though, the smell is the real deal breaker.
"I've got a German uncle who pretty much lives on knockwurst who is less offensive than that thing farting down the road," one critic says. Kellerman agrees that there are problems to be worked out.
"Look, this thing is being tested at the moment, not widely produced," Kellerman says. "Sure, there are problems, but we expect to have them solved well before we begin selling these to the public. Maybe we will have to drop the ability to refuel in-trip. Maybe we can add a little lavender to our slurry mix, or perhaps collect the exhaust and release it all at once in situations where the driver finds himself alone on the road. I just can't say at this point, but we will get it all worked out."
Empire State Motors hopes to be done with testing and begin selling both the PUV and its more durable diesel-sweetened cousin The DumpTruck sometime in 2010.
- Rich Gray