Last week, seven members of Boise State's Greenspeed Club—the students who set the land-speed record for a vegetable oil-fueled vehicle—traveled to Washington, D.C. to show off their revamped 1998 Chevrolet S-10 pickup at the Washington Auto Show.
"Surprisingly, there were a ton of electric cars," said Jen Kniss, crew chief and computer science expert of the Greenspeed team. "Sen. Jim Risch, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and even President Obama came down to visit."
While hustling to make her gate at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Kniss talked about the marathon week spent in D.C., where the Boise State students showed off their biomass-fueled creation, capable of reaching more than 150 mph.
"People didn’t really understand at first why we were running on vegetable oil," said Kniss of the show's attendees.
"But we're generating electricity without using coal like other vehicles."
Kniss also talked about the potential to run a vehicle off oil excreted from algae. Dr. Kevin Feris, associate professor for Boise State's Department of Biology, is working on a process to wring more algae oil out of the small organisms.
"You can grow algae on human and animal waste," said Kniss. "It doesn't compete land-wise with agriculture. The bottleneck there is quantity. We can't really get enough of it yet."