Coolfuel Roadtrip: Alternative-Fuel Vehicles Across the Country

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Shaun Murphy and his pal Sparky blend up a carbohydrate-heavy concoction to power the Green Hummer. A “diet” including beignets, crawfish and catfish powered this highly unusual “coolfuel” vehicle through Louisiana.
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Shaun Murphy and his pal Sparky on the road.

The great American road trip is a time-honored tradition. But these days, high gas prices and concerns about pollution and global warming have conspired to make hitting the road a guilty pleasure. Fortunately, alternative fuels and vehicles are changing that, and the intrepid Australian traveler Shaun Murphy and his canine companion, Sparky, prove how in their new TV show, Coolfuel Roadtrip.

“My goal was to show everyone how many different natural fuels there are in America’s own back yard, so I went on the road trip to piece them all together,” Murphy says. “In doing so, I met a lot of interesting people and drove some outrageous vehicles.”

Crossing 30 states and racking up 16,000 miles, Murphy sought out innovative — sometimes quirky — Americans with alternative vehicles, including an eclectic assortment of electric cars, bikes, scooters and motorcycles; biodiesel cars and a dragster; a stretch Hummer limousine powered by biodiesel and a carbohydrate gasifier system; a BMW roadster powered by corn whiskey; and a solar-powered canoe.

Each of the first 13 episodes shows Murphy in a different state, with different vehicles. The adventure often takes unexpected turns as he meets some strange and clever characters who help him along the way, such as a rapping biofuel supplier known as the Ayatollah Granola of Canola, and eco-conscious Hollywood stars such as Ed Begley Jr. and Darryl Hannah. The last five episodes offer behind-the-scenes looks into the fuels, vehicles, people and bloopers of the trip.

For much of the journey, Murphy says he didn’t know how he would find his next ride. “I used the Internet to search for locals who had alternative-fuel vehicles, improvising the whole way. I definitely winged it,” he says.

Coolfuel Roadtrip airs nationally this year. Go to the Coolfuel Roadtrip website for TV listings, DVDs and detailed information about the vehicles, fuels and technologies covered in each episode.

No Gas, No Problem!

Vehicles featured on Coolfuel Roadtrip include:

  • Electra Cruiser motorcycle (shown in Image Gallery). Powered by 10 Trojan 12-volt batteries that produce 78 horsepower; motor controller produces 400 amps with regenerative breaking.
  • 1996 BMW Z3 Roadster. Powered by 1.9-liter, 175-horsepower engine modified to run on 100-percent corn whiskey; a regenerative hydrogen generator system helps increase mileage by using waste heat.
  • 1997 32-foot Hummer H1 limousine. Powered by food-derived biodiesel and a waste-heat-powered biomass gasifier, which converts carbohydrates into hydrogen, methane and carbon monoxide; regenerative hydrogen system increases mileage and reduces emissions.
  • Tzero prototype electric car. Powered by a 50-kilowatt lithium-ion battery with a range of 300 miles and standard AC outlet plug-in capability; drivetrain is a 150-kilowatt Propulsion AC150 induction motor, capable of zero to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds, 102-mph top speed.
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