Gallery: First Algae-Powered Car Attempts to Cross US on 25 Gallons

algaeus, josh tickell, rebecca harrell, green crude, fuel

Just yesterday San Francisco saw the unveiling of the world’s first algae fuel-powered vehicle, dubbed the Algaeus. The plug-in hybrid car, which is a Prius tricked out with a nickel metal hydride battery and a plug, runs on green crude from Sapphire Energy — no modifications to the gasoline engine necessary. The set-up is so effective, according to FUEL producer Rebecca Harrell, that the Algaeus can run on approximately 25 gallons from coast to coast!

“Powering our cars with algae-based fuel could be the next Apollo mission.” That’s what Rebecca Harrell, co-founder of the Veggie Van Organization and producer of the upcoming film FUEL, told me yesterday in front of San Francisco‘s City Hall. Over the next 10 days she’ll be joined by Fuel director and Veggie Van Organization cofounder Josh Tickell as they take the Algaeus, along with a caravan of other green energy vehicles (including the Veggie Van and the biodiesel-powered big green energy bus), on a cross-country road trip. “It hit us that we needed to drive the car across the country,” Harrell said. “People think of algae fuel as this long-term, far off thing. But seeing is believing.”

And of course, the cross-country tour will also serve to promote FUEL, a film about America’s ongoing dependence on foreign oil. Unlike many environmentally-themed films that serve up upsetting bits of information without offering concrete solutions (An Inconvenient Truth, anyone?), FUEL discusses the ways that we can transition away from oil right now. “What’s important for everyday people is information. People don’t say ‘Can you give me something else to be scared about?’ They say, ‘How can I get my car to run on algae fuel?’, Tickell explained.

Green crude won’t be sold at your local gas station any time soon — Sapphire Energy is ramping up production of algae-based jet fuel this year, with plans to produce 2 million gallons of algae-based diesel fuel each year in the next two years–but eventually the company expects that green crude will be cost-competitive with fossil fuels. And while the Algaeus only runs on a 5% blend of algae fuel, Harrell and Tickell hope that the vehicle can prove to consumers that green fuel solutions are on the horizon. “Up until now the environmental movement has been reactionary. We have no discourse about energy,” Tickell said.” And we want to shift that.”

FUEL will be released in New York City, San Francisco, Berkeley, and Washington DC on September 18th.


+ Sapphire Energy

All photos by Ariel Schwartz


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  1. What Happened to the Co... May 30, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    […] the ultimate clean car, we’ve seen concept vehicles that run on everything from solar power to algae, but most are expensive and require hard-to-find fuels. Wouldn’t it be nice to find a car that […]

  2. ktishna May 2, 2010 at 9:05 am

    self from india wish to produce commercial fuel from micro algae help me
    bangalore, india

  3. Algea rules September 16, 2009 at 5:56 pm

    algea will be the fuel of the future, the thing is americans have to make all things too expensive to be worth it! u don’t need all fancy equipment to get high yield… i mean i read somewhere that they had 25 million dollar to build 1 photobioreactor(where they make algea). i mean my god! this will get into the open market when the chinese or malaysians make it with a 250 thousand dollar photobioreactor that gives more yield than the expensive american ones… i am making in my lab with more yield than those expensive ones built there in the US. but this is defenetly the future of fuel(maybe in 20+ years)

  4. tgable September 15, 2009 at 6:38 pm

    Great commentary! I just blogged about it and used several of them. The algae-fueled Hypemobile keeps rolling along. Wonder how it will be received in NYC. The cross-country promotion got high media mileage, but low credibility.

  5. BigSky September 13, 2009 at 10:18 pm

    How stupid do these PR brats think the public is? Not that they really care as long as they can snake oil enough rubes along the way. Dead_Unicorns is dead on with his comments, especially the bit about “stealing” coal generated electricity from all the motels they overnight in during their little trek. This display is all about drumming money out of gullible investors along the way, not about saving energy or the planet.

    Seems to me that the Josh Tickells polluting the green movement are the reason that any viable “green fuel solution” is still well beyond the horizon. That’s where these wannabe barons of green niche energy want to keep it. Don’t kid yourselves folks. Their passion is simply to monetize the movement for as long as they can to enrich themselves. It has nothing to do with stopping global warming and saving the polar bears . It would be real interesting to hear T. Boone Pickens’ take on this cross-country charade.

  6. savsocal September 13, 2009 at 6:37 pm

    This is just hype for the movie. It’s amazing how many media have been sucked in by the algae label on the car. I like the comment about substituting the algae fuel for the same amount of water and you call the car the Aqua-us!

  7. Raysfun September 12, 2009 at 5:47 pm


  8. Raysfun September 12, 2009 at 5:44 pm

    Is GreenStar a part of this project .

  9. MDC September 12, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    I agree with Dead_Unicorns. If they’re going to use just 5% algae in the fuel, fine — but then they shouldn’t claim that the car is “powered by green crude” and paint a big “powered by ALGAE” sign on the side.

    We need real green tech, not phony marketing ploys. This stunt could do more to discredit green technology than promote it. Some people will look at this, find out the truth, and conclude that biofuels are a hoax. Sad, because biofuels are actually a good idea that just hasn’t quite arrived yet.

  10. carterson2 September 12, 2009 at 1:54 pm

    I have high hopes for algae, until it takes over the world due to Global you know… Hmmmmmm Global-you-know.

  11. Dead_Unicorns September 10, 2009 at 11:20 am

    So, a plug in hybrid, that utilizes a 5% algae gasoline mix will go coast-to-coast on only 25 gallons of fuel!

    So, what that means is that this vehicle and this publicity stunt, will be running mostly off of plug in power and good old fashioned gasoline. What that means kids, is that, the primary fuel being used for this little escapade is gasoline! 23.75 gallons of it, to be exact. The secondary fuel will be coal! Coal fired power plants will generate electricity which this vehicle will steal from hotels across the nation.

    0.5 gallons of algae fuel per tankful. At that rate, you could put that much water and an emulsifier in the tank and claim that the car runs on water!

    This is a PR stunt for a dead end technology!

  12. algaepreneur September 9, 2009 at 9:58 am

    The National Algae Association wishes Josh Tickell the best of luck and a safe journey.

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