The Ten Strangest Alternative Fuel Cars Ever BuiltS

Alternative-fuel cars are usually exceptionally boring. Jalopnik readers know ten bizarre attempts to outdo gasoline that definitely didn't suck.

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The problem with alternative-fuel cars is that they're so often total hoaxes. Most people have no idea how cars work in the first place, so if you tell them that you've figured out a way to power a car on unicorn farts, they'll believe you. Of course there are scams and then there are hopeless dreamers, and while we'll never end up seeing a real-life version of Ford's Nucleon, we don't mind repeating its vision of an atomic-powered automotive future.

So what alternative fuels did we forget about when compiling this list? Do you ever think any of them will be realized into mass-market models? Do you think anything will ever happen with hydrogen, even though we haven't seen anything past a few limited-run prototypes in the past decade or so? Let us know in Kinja below.

Photo Credit: GreenGT


The Ten Strangest Alternative Fuel Cars Ever Built

10.) Chicken Shit Power

You can make a combustible methane out of just about any waste product. Even Top Gear did it back in the day. British inventor Harold Bate famously used the methane from decomposing chicken and pig manure to run his '53 Hillman back in 1974.

Suggested By: manifold engines, Photo Credit: Journey To Forever


The Ten Strangest Alternative Fuel Cars Ever Built

9.) Nuclear Power

NASA's Curiosity doesn't look like a car, particularly because it drives itself and it's on Mars. No matter, it drives around on wheels and is very much an automobile. How does it move around? By converting heat from on onboard radioactive material into electricity, of course! The legacy of the Ford Nucleon has been validated.

Suggested By: twistedsymphony, Photo Credit: NASA


The Ten Strangest Alternative Fuel Cars Ever BuiltS

8.) Porsche 918 Hybrid-Style Bus

While Lithium Ion batteries are only ever exciting when they catch on fire, the really interesting hybrids are those that use flywheels. They store power by spinning a rotor up to frankly scary speeds and have been used (briefly) in Formula One, in Porsche's sports car racing program, and in the all-electric Gyrobus, which operated from 1953 through the early ‘60s in Switzerland. These buses' flywheels weighed multiple tons, and if one ever broke, we imagine it would shoot rotor shards straight through the Earth's crust.

Suggested By: TacoTacoMMmm, Photo Credit: Smiley.toerist


The Ten Strangest Alternative Fuel Cars Ever BuiltS

7.) Hydrogen-Powered Le Mans Racer

2012 was the year of the Deltawing, the ‘Garage 56' car that was allowed to run at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. This year we're getting the GreenGT, a hydrogen-powered entry and holy crap does it look strange. Hydrogen power will always be odd, but this one must be the strangest hydrogen-powered car of all.

Suggested By: eharken123, Photo Credit: GreenGT


The Ten Strangest Alternative Fuel Cars Ever Built

6.) Compressed Air-Powered Microcars

One of the great leg-pulls of the automotive world is the compressed air car. It might work for forklifts, but we've been hearing for years how it will power everything from three-wheeled microcars to the Tata Nano.

Suggested By: $kaycog, Photo Credit: MDI's AirPod One


The Ten Strangest Alternative Fuel Cars Ever Built

5.) The Poochmobile

The Poochmobile was supposed constructed in 1939 by an eighty-year-old Texan dog trainer. The stick the driver and inventor, Z. Wiggs, is clutching shifts the belt-and-pulley drivetrain.

This is still more likely to go into production than compressed-air cars.

Suggested By: McPherson, Photo Credit: izismile.com


The Ten Strangest Alternative Fuel Cars Ever BuiltS

4.) Charcoal-Powered Cars

When you really have no gasoline to run anything, you start getting pretty desperate with fuel. During and after WWII, many countries ran cars off of gasified wood and charcoal, though experimentation began in the 1920s. Over one million vehicles were converted to run on woodgas during the Second World War.

The gasification isn't the most efficient process, as Low Tech Magazine explains, but it lets you run your car on firewood. Sometimes that's all you have.

Suggested By: owen-magnetic and twistedsymphony, Photo Credit: German Federal Archives


The Ten Strangest Alternative Fuel Cars Ever Built

3.) Gas Bag Cars

Regular woodgas and coal gas cars use compressed gas. It is possible, however, to just use uncompressed gas. This does leave you with a huge balloon of gas on the top of the vehicle, but it works (sort of) for buses. Uncompressed-gas bag buses were still running in China into the late ‘80s and possibly into the ‘90s.

Suggested By: Stig-a-saw-us-wrecks, Photo Credit: Low Tech Magazine


The Ten Strangest Alternative Fuel Cars Ever Built

2.) Liquid Nitrogen-Powered Cars

Basically, this one works by using extremely cold liquid nitrogen to suck heat out of ambient air, and use the resulting pressurized gas to operated a piston engine. It's been tested as one hazily-archived car from 1899 called "Liquid Air," as well as by some university projects.

Suggested By: Smithoeaneous and PODIMUS, Photo Credit: University of Washington


The Ten Strangest Alternative Fuel Cars Ever BuiltS

1.) Tequila-Powered Turbine Car

You can run a turbine on pretty much anything that burns, and when Chrysler tried its hand at making a turbine car back at the height of the jet-powered car craze, one owner tried just that. The president of Mexico ran his car on tequila, as detailed in an article in Special Interest Autos

The car reached Mexico, and I got a call from one of the International people who said that the president of Mexico wanted to operate the turbine on tequila! I said that I thought it would work fine, but just the same. I went to the purchasing department the next morning and got two gallons of tequila. We drained the tank on engineering's car and dumped the two gallons in. The car ran all over Highland Park with no trouble. Meanwhile the president of Mexico ran the car there on tequila, but was later quite upset when reporters failed to mention that he was driving. The turbine and tequila stole the show, you might say.

Suggested By: KusabiSensei, Photo Credit: Chrysler