German carmaker Volkswagen has showcased its algae biogas-powered vehicle at a biogas project based in El Torno Chiclana, a town in south-west Spain.
The presentation of the test vehicle was unveiled at a biogas development named ‘All-gas biogas project’, which is run by Aqualia, a water management subsidiary of FCC Group.
The demonstration at the wastewater treatment plant was made in front of delegates from the World Water Congress (IWA LET), which was held from June 15-16.
The primary aim of the scheme is to obtain a clean fuel and other high value-added products from microalgae grown with treated wastewater.
The car will use biogas produced from algae. The algae is obtained from the Chiclana wastewater treatment plant, through microalgae cultivation. The facility turns the algae into biogas which is used to power the car.
The microalgae cultivation process also helps to purify water at the plant as the microalgae feeds on organic wastewater sent to the facility for treatment.
The vehicle’s engine generates zero emissions. It also includes an emergency fuel tank which can be used if a gas refuelling station is not nearby.
Chiclana city councilor, responsible for the environment, Joaquín Páez, and the director of the delegation for Aqualia, Francisco Jimenez, welcomed delegates to the plant, and introduced them to the All-gas project.
Paez said he was "tremendously proud that Chiclana is now a world leader in the research and development of fuels derived from microalgae cultivation. In fact, because of this essential role, we have researchers from around the world visiting the project, such as those involved in the World Water Congress".
He added that "these types of fuels are emerging as one of the most viable alternatives to fossil fuels, and the All-gas project is well placed to prove that obtaining commercial scale clean and environmentally friendly fuels is possible" .
The All-gas team hosted researchers on a tour of the facility, explaining the different processes involved in the cultivation of the algae and how the biogas is obtained. The ‘Volkswagen Up!’ vehicle which can run on compressed natural gas (CNG) as well as biogas was also tested by the All-gas team.
Frank Rogalla, director of technology and innovation at Aqualia, said: “For the first time in the history of humanity a car will be fuelled with a full batch of algae biogas. This is the culmination of five years of hard work and a very proud moment for Aqualia.
“The way this algae is cultivated is twice as productive per hectare as other biofuels. This means it is a fuel with a positive energy balance, and therefore significant commercial viability.”