Scientists have long touted methane as a viable source of alternative fuel. The gas is abundant in the atmosphere, plus it is very easily accessible. However, making methane-powered technology whose efficiency is comparable to normal gasoline has remained a challenge. However, for one Dutchman, it was a welcome challenge.
Dutch national Gijs Schalkx, an artist and engineer, has come up with the “Sloot Motor”. It is a motorcycle with a twist: it runs on methane that Gijs harvest fresh from bogs at the side of the road. The inspiration behind his invention is his dream to see a world that is more sustainable. By the way, “sloot” is the Dutch word for a ditch.
How The Methane-Run Bike Works
A converted Honda GX160 engine for motorcycles runs Schalkx’s Sloot Motor. The artist did the conversion himself. As per his website, Schalkx made a hole in the engine’s airbox. This hole is where the methane goes into the engine.
In one of his demonstration videos, Schalkx uses a balloon as a substitute methane tank. He hooks it to the opening, and the gas inside acts as fuel. The initial start needs a bit of gasoline. However, once it starts, the bike is able to keep running on the stored methane. Schalkx got this idea from a story of a fisherman where he would collect methane while out fishing. Then, the fisherman would use it for frying eggs.
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However, collecting methane is not an easy task. To collect it, Schalkx came up with another invention: the plompstation. Schalkx explains:
“A plompstation consists of a collecting apparatus which is anchored to the water, only reachable by those who bring their waders. Next to that, there is a pressure pump locked on-site for transferring the fuel to your fuel container.”
As per his demonstration video, we can confirm that it will need someone to stand quite a while in waders. Essentially, the plompstation is an upside-down container. It floats on a bog’s surface where it collects methane. Organic decomposition naturally produces methane. Normally, it takes a long while for enough methane to accrue. But, Schalkx manually hoes the bog to accelerate it.
Then, to transfer it to his bike’s methane tank, Schalkx uses a simple bicycle pump. The motorcycle’s methane tank looks somewhat like a large balloon shaped like a condom. It sits at the motorcycle’s back.
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The Dreamer That Is Schalkx
Schalkx says that if he hoes for about 8 hours, he will be able to get just enough methane to power the Sloot Motor for 20 kilometers (a bit more than 12 miles). In his interview with Algemeen Dagblad, a Dutch newspaper, he called that 20 kilometers a priceless experience.
The Sloot Motor is Schalkx’s attempt to keep the typical combustion engine alive even in the future when vehicles go fossil-free. He also thinks of it as his way of criticizing the general perception to look at big corporations to show them an answer to climate change. He explained that just throwing money at the problem (like buying expensive electric cars) does not get rid of the oil circuit powering the entire manufacturing process.
For Schalkx, the Sloot Motor is about reorienting the relationship between technology and humans. He finds it illogical to keep clinging to the idea that growth is equal to progress when it is the cause of the present predicament.
Well, the Sloot Motor is not viable enough in its current stage to be a widespread technology. But, we sincerely hope it can be developed to a stage where it will be just as common as today’s gasoline motorcycles.
- “Man Harvests Methane for 8 Hours to Fuel Bike That Runs on Swamp Gas.” VICE. Matthew Gault. July 17, 2021.