Whiskey-Powered Car Completes Its First Test Drive

By Bryan Le 07/10/17

Using whiskey waste products normally dumped into the ocean, a company in Scotland is creating a new biofuel.

Whiskey alcohol used as a fuel source with pump.
Whiskey waste could be the next new biofuel.

This car drinks to drive! An experimental whiskey-powered car just finished its first test drive in Scotland. 

More accurately, the car uses biobutanol, a biofuel made of byproducts from whiskey production. About 90% of a whiskey manufacturer’s output is actually waste, including a beer-like byproduct called pot ale and leftover kernels of barley called draff. Scotland alone creates 750,000 tons of draff and 2 billion liters of pot ale a year—and the stuff is totally useless to whiskey makers. Most of this waste is simply dumped out into the ocean, but Celtic Renewables believes it can give the waste a second life.

“What we developed was a process to combine the liquid with the solid, and used an entirely different traditional fermentation process called ABE, and it makes the chemical called biobutanol,” said Professor Martin Tangney, founder and president of Celtic Renewables. “And that is a direct replacement, here and now, for petrol.”

If the efforts of these researchers are successful, the biobutanol products could replace the gasoline and diesel products we use today. They claim that biobutanol could yield 25% more energy than the ethanol used in fuels today. Best of all, the researchers claim, car engines wouldn’t even have to be changed in any way to accept the new fuel.

Now, the results of the research have culminated in the first drive of a car powered by whiskey waste.

“This is the first time in history that a car has ever been driven with a biofuel produced from whisky production residues,” said Professor Tangney. “It is fitting to do this historic drive in Scotland, which is famous not just for its world-renowned whiskey but also for being a powerhouse for renewable energy.”

The driver for this historic ride, BBC Scotland reporter Lisa Summers, said that the car drove smoothly and she did not notice anything different about the ride compared to a regular gasoline-powered car.

Celtic Renewables has received a £9 million ($11.6 million) government grant to build its first demonstration plant that’s planned to be up and running by 2018, with the hope that the whiskey waste biofuel could power a £100 million ($129 million) industry that could expand worldwide.

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Bryan Le grew up in the 90's, so the Internet is practically his third parent. This combined with a love for journalism led him to The Fix. When he isn't fulfilling his duties as Editorial Coordinator, he's obsessing over fancy keyboards he can't justify buying. Find Bryan on LinkedIn or Twitter