LDG Employee Sets World Record for Wood Powered Car
Posted in Alternative Energy | Employees | Innovative Solutions | Leadership | Sustainable Design | Transportation by (Chief Development Officer) on November 12, 2010
Wood-Powered-Solid-Fuel-Car

In September 2010 Robert “Chip” Beam, CADD Specialist at Larson Design Group, journeyed from South Williamsport, PA to Bonneville Salt Flats, UT, where his two-door sedan clocked at just under 48 miles per hour, establishing a world speed record.

You may think, “What’s so interesting about a sedan going 48 mph?” The answer is the aforementioned car does not run on gasoline. Beam’s 1989 Mercury Cougar XR7 is completely powered by the gasification of wood pellets manufactured from timber debris often collected at furniture-crafting workshops.

I sat down with Chip to discuss his recent efforts and thoughts on climate change.

Do you have something against wood? Seems you like to torture and burn it.

No, we like wood. Wood is all around. It was largely a waste product until the wood pellet industry started; before that we used wood chips. For us it was about using a waste product; it was about waste reuse, using wood as a fuel is “found energy.” Any organic material can be pelletized. Grass, leaves, and crop residue can make good fuels; they make good material to run through a pellet machine. There is no need to dry at all because the pellet machine reduces moisture to an adequate level. Anyone can create fuel with a pellet machine and organic waste products.

Tell us about your development of wood powered cars. What made it happen?

We built our first car in 2005. I had an Isuzu Trooper that sat in my yard for about five years. It was a sanctuary for small animals. I moved the animals out and put a gasification system in it. By chance, I was building the car the summer before Hurricane Katrina. When Katrina impacted the oil refineries, gas prices started to climb fast. I think gas went from $2.50 to almost $4 per gallon. Having an alternative fuel vehicle was different and people liked it. Just after that the first Green Grand Prix event took place at Watkins Glen International Raceway. I called the event organizer and got the okay to attend. The Green Grand Prix got good exposure with coverage from the Discovery Channel. In 2006, the Canadian Discovery Channel did a segment on our vehicle on The Daily Planet.

The Canadian Discovery Channel did another segment on the Allan Nersel Experience. From there we were asked to film a pilot show in Bethlehem, PA for a show called Apocalypse PA on the History Channel to air on Tuesday, November 16 at 10 p.m. EST. Beaver Energy was the expert called to help Frank Belcastro, the star of the show, understand the basics of a wood powered car. The show’s theme is preparing for the apocalypse in Pennsylvania, and it will be released nationally.

You are the holder of the certified Land Speed Record for a wood powered car. How did you make something so different happen?

It was an idea that had been on my schedule for a few years. I just happened to mention it to the founder of the Green Grand Prix who had a contact with the Land Speed Record Association. After some correspondence there was an agreement to open a new class for wood powered cars and the rest is history.

I bought a 1989 Mercury Cougar XR7 with a super charger. In just a couple of weeks, we converted the Mercury Cougar to run on wood pellets and got enough sponsors to support the trip to the legendary Bonneville Salt Flats. We got great support from Mother Earth News, Allegany Pellet Company, Larson Design Group, Casella Waste Management, and Terra Fix. We use Allegany Pellets for fuel, and I work for Larson Design Group. You can find out more at our website www.beaverenergy.com.

Ever been stopped by the police?

Nope. Maybe they feel it’s better if they ignore me.

What technology transfer is involved that a non-technical person would understand?

People should think about getting their energy needs locally. Organic waste can be used to make pellets, convert the pellets to energy, run a motor, and power your home or farm. In bigger terms supply power for a campus, factory, community, or sell it to the grid.

The company behind this work is Beaver Energy. What is the enterprise behind wood as a fuel?

Beaver Energy gets paid to educate people on how they can build systems. We just got back from Washington D.C. educating a group on the process of generating energy from organic materials. We worked with Alfred University’s School of Ceramics. They have built a kiln fueled by biomass gasification from our showing them how. The kiln operates at 2400° – pretty good for a waste product.

Last question before we go back to work. What is your view on climate change?

There is always change, so climate change would seem to be obvious. What is responsible for today’s climate change can have many interpretations of its origin. I am not a climatologist, and if I were I would probably know less about the matter due to a narrowed view of a system of systems that control climate. Recently astronomers made observations of Mars and found that its polar caps are reducing at the same rate as they are on Earth. So to state the obvious, climate does change on Earth or on Mars.

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    Pingback by Wood Gas at the Bonneville Salt Flats! | Biomass Energy Journal on November 21, 2010 at 10:05 pm

  • Really cool stuff! Were you aware that in Liberty just 30 minutes to the north from your office in Williamsport there is a saw mill that converts their wood waste (without pelletizing)into steam and uses it to basically dry their lumber for free? Our company AFS Energy Systems in Lemoyne, Pa. has been providing wood bio-mass systems for over 20 years to companies, hospitals, food production plants etc. http://www.afsenergysystems.com check it out! Thanks, Paul

    Comment by Paul Lewandowski on December 3, 2010 at 1:11 pm

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