A man in The Netherlands has designed a motorcycle that runs on methane freshly harvested from road side bogs. It’s called the Sloot Motor (sloot meaning "ditch" in Dutch) and it’s the invention of engineer and artist Gijs Schalkx who designed the bike because he wants to live in a more sustainable world.
According to his website, Schalkx is a fan of both futurist Buckminster Fuller and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance author Robert M. Pirsig. His Sloot Motor is "a quest on keeping the combustion engine alive in a fossil free future," according to his website, and a critique of the way people believe they can rely on corporations to figure out a way to allow them to purchase their way out of climate change.
“With this I try to criticize the way we as a society deal with all kinds of concepts,” he told Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad. “Driving an electric car does not mean that you are exempt from the oil circuit on which our society runs. Throwing more money at a problem won't solve it, we are the problem and we have to change.”
The Sloot Motor uses a converted Honda GX160 motorcycle engine Schalkx converted himself. According to his website, Schalkx drilled a hole into the airbox of the engine where it receives the methane. Then he hooks a balloon (he uses a condom in a demonstration) to the hole which fuels the engine. The engine still starts with gas, but once it’s going it can use the collected methane to keep going. He got the idea while reading about a fisherman who used methane collected while out fishing to fry eggs, according to his website.
Collecting the naturally-occurring methane is a labor of love which requires a special device Schalkx designed which calls a plompstation. “A plompstation consists of a collecting apparatus which is anchored to the water, only reachable by those who bring their waders,” he said on his website. “Next to that there is a pressure pump locked on site for transferring the fuel to your fuel container.”
In a recent video posted to YouTube, Schalkx demonstrates the process and it indeed includes a lot of standing around in waders. Basically, an upturned container floats on the surface of a bog collecting methane, which is naturally produced during organic decomposition. Once the methane is collected, Schalkx pumps the methane out of the plompstation using a bicycle pump. The methane sits in a large condom-like balloon attached to the back of the motorcycle.
The accrual of methane is a slow process, but Schalkx speeds it up by manually hoeing the bog.
According to Schalkx, it takes roughly eight hours of hoeing to collect enough methane to take you 20 kilometers, or just over 12 miles, on the Sloot Motor. “Eight hours of hoeing for a 20 kilometer drive will ensure that it will be the best 20 kilometers of your life, priceless,” he told Algemeen Dagblad. “I have to hoe about eight hours for a full tank. But that way you realized how much effort you have to put in for that fuel.”
For Schalkx, projects like Sloot Motor are about reorienting human’s relationship to technology. “If this world we live in is the cause for global breakdown, over-extraction of resources and inequality all over the world, why do we keep holding on to this idea of progress by growth?” He said on his website. “A goal that we are blindly following without thinking about the consequences and counting on technology to save us.”
Schalkx wasn't available to comment in time for publication, but we’ll update if we hear back.