Can A Motorized Bicycle Run On Trees?

Some of the earliest automobiles weren’t powered by refined petrochemicals, but instead wood gas. This wood gas is produced by burning wood or charcoal, capturing the fumes given off, and burning those fumes again. During World War II, nearly every European country was under gasoline rations, and tens of thousands of automobiles would be converted to run on wood gas before the war’s end.

In the century or so since the first car rolled on wood gas, and after hundreds of books and studies were published on the manufacturing and development of wood gas generators and conversion of internal combustion engines, there’s one question: can someone convert a moped to run on wood gas? [NightHawkinLight] finally answered that question.

The basic setup for this experiment is a tiny, tiny internal combustion engine attached to a bicycle. Add a gas tank, and you have a moped, no problem. But this is meant to run on firewood, and for that you need a wood gas generator. This means [NightHawkinLight] will need to burn wood without a whole lot of oxygen, similar to how you make charcoal. There is, apparently, the perfect device to do this, and it’ll fit on the back of a bike. It’s a bee smoker, that thing bee keepers use to calm down a hive of honeybees.

The bee smoker generates the wood gas, which is filtered and cooled in a gallon paint bucket filled with cedar chips. The output from this filter is fed right into where the air filter for the internal combustion engine should be, with an added valve to put more air into the carburetor.

So, with that setup, does the weird bike motorcycle wood gas thing turn over? Yes. The engine idled for a few seconds without producing any useful power. That’s alright, though, because this is just a proof of concept and work in progress. Getting this thing to run and be a useful mode of transportation will require a much larger wood gas generator, but right now [NightHawkinLight] knows his engine can run on wood gas.

Building A Gasometer To Store Wood Gas And Other Bio-Fuels

Old solutions are often so elegant and effective that they keep coming back. The gasometer, or gas holder, is one such example. Now [NightHawkInLight] has built one for storing the wood gas he’s been experimenting with, and it’s pretty neat to watch it rise and fall as he first adds gas and then burns it off. The mechanism couldn’t be simpler.

How a gasometer works

For those who, like us, are hearing about this low tech for the first time, gasometers are a means of safely storing gas stemming from the 1700s when gas was king and electricity was little more than a gentleman scientist’s pursuit. In its simplest form, it consists of a container of water with another container filled with gas sitting upside down in the water. Gas pressure is controlled by the weight of the gas-filled container and the water provides a seal, preventing the gas from escaping. Adding gas simply raises the gas-filled container, and removing or using gas lowers it. Simple, safe, and elegant.

We’ll leave the details of how he made his gasometer to the video below, but suffice it to say that his use of a double-walled gas pipe originally intended as a furnace chimney just adds more elegance to this whole hack.

[NightHawkInLight’s] cool projects have graced the pages of Hackaday before. For example, in the area of gas alone there’s his propane-powered plasma rifle, his transparent hybrid rocket engine, and his thermic lance which was hot enough to melt rocks.

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