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Will Our Buses Ever Run on Coffee?

The Paris Climate Agreement has forced the UK and other Western nations to take drastic measures to cut carbon emissions. And while the UK has made some serious inroads into fulfilling its commitments, it is still some way off from getting there.

Could coffee be part of the solution?

We all know that coffee gives many of us the energy to get through the day (or at least the illusion of energy). However, there is a chance that used coffee grounds could be used for energy in a literal sense — on the streets of London.

Cutting Carbon Emissions with Coffee

A major contributor to the unacceptable air pollution in London is the carbon being emitted from cars, commercial vehicles and buses. And given the instability of fuel prices in the world today, the cost of keeping the capital moving is also a cause for concern.

We already have public transport vehicles running on oil in Britain, so why not coffee? An environmentalist and entrepreneur in London wants to use coffee waste to fuel public buses, and he’s not too far away from realising his dream.

Arthur Kay is already innovating in the field of reusable waste. He is the owner of Biobean, which is a recycling company that collects coffee waste from chains such as Costa and turns it into liquid fuel.

This fuel can be adapted to power people’s homes and fires, but Kay wants to use it to run London’s bus network one day — and he’s already developed the technology to do so.

Biobean will unveil its first coffee-powered bus in London this summer, and it’s expected to be every bit as viable as a standard diesel version.

As we move away from a system reliant on fossil fuels, we need to think more and more about clean and efficient fuels that are sustainable in the long term, and coffee seems to fit the bill nicely.

New Technology Turns Coffee into Oil

The exact science behind coffee-powered buses is not known, and it’s probably not going to be for some time to come. The biochemical method of extracting oil from coffee grounds has been patented by Kay’s company. However, we do know that the grounds are evaporated away from the oil by a process called “hexane extraction”.

While this new extraction process only utilises removes around 20 percent of the oil in coffee, the remaining coffee can be turned into pellets for wood burners. Nothing goes to waste, which is exactly the sort of approach we need in order to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.

In the UK alone, we’re consuming around 500,000 tons of coffee every year — which is enough to power Manchester for the same period. There is therefore plenty of coffee to fuel as many “coffee buses” as the authorities wish to purchase.

The Biofuel Race is On

Across the developed world, the race is on to develop biofuels that are cheap to produce and burn efficiently. For instance, has tried using rabbit carcases to create biofuel, while buses in parts of Brazil are already running on fuel made with raw sugar.

Beijing has already announced that its 70,000 taxis will be converted to electric motors over the next few years. In Norway, nearly 20 percent of new vehicle registrations will be all-electric cars this year. While, the UK is making progress, it still lags behind other countries in the race for a viable alternative to petrol and diesel.

Maybe coffee can be our “biofuel thing” in the UK. After all, we’re consuming more of it than ever, and the amount being imported into the country is still rising at an unprecedented rate. Instead of coffee grounds going into the bin, they could be taking us to work, whisking us away on holiday or doing the school run.

There are so many productive uses for coffee grounds, so I honestly don’t understand why anyone would want to throw them away. Who knows? In a few years a company may actually pay you a significant amount of money for the contents of your empty French presses.