Talking point

Cool fuel pioneers: 16,000 miles of American road and not a drop of gas
By Alexandra Lambrinidis | March 01, 2006
Australian adventurer and television personality Shaun Murphy came to America to prove that there are alternatives to gasoline and diesel, and the result was a one-of-a-kind "cool fuel" road trip.

An 18-part TV series, Cool fuel Roadtrip debuted this past fall on UPN and follows Murphy, his Jack Russell terrier sidekick Sparky and the Cool fuel crew as they set off on an incredible journey to conquer 16,000 miles of American road using nothing but biodiesel and other fuels. "A Cool fuel is anything besides gasoline," Murphy explained. "You can grow it, squeeze it, fry it, heat it up or catch it. Heck, you can even eat it!" By using 12 of the coolest fuel sources he could get his hands on, Murphy crossed 30 states on 30 different vehicles including cars, motorcycles, boats and even an airplane in order to tackle the "no gas" challenge.

"The cool thing is most of the fuel we've used is being produced today on American farms," said Murphy of the different fuels that got him across the country, particularly biodiesel, Murphy's most precious resource. Able to run in any diesel engine, he took full advantage of biodiesel. He used it to power a boat through the Orcas Islands to the Canadian border. From Los Angeles to San Francisco, Calif., he used it to fuel a 32-foot Hummer H1 stretch limousine that hit 75 miles per hour. For kicks, he took a spin around a track in a 125 mph biodiesel dragster. Whenever Murphy couldn't find a clean source of electricity to power his electric vehicles, it was biodiesel to the rescue; he'd just plug into a biodiesel-fueled generator for the quick fix that would get him another 40 miles or so down the road.
Made of everything from soybeans to vegetable oil, and increasingly available across the United States, biodiesel was the Cool fuel crew's lifeblood. "Biodiesel is the single fuel that made the TV production possible," Murphy explained. "Our production crew charged camera batteries, computers and lights via our biodiesel-powered generator, and our RV, which we lived and produced the TV series in, ran on B100 for 16,000 miles."

Murphy made use of some more creative fuels as well. Cow manure that produced electricity powered an array of electric bikes. Hempoline (a mix of hemp oil and ethanol) powered a truck that has a helicopter jet turbine for an engine. Fresh beignets and crawfish were fed into the gasifier of a green Hummer. Corn whiskey (100 percent ethanol) powered Murphy through the air across Iowa in a 1982 Mooney 201 airplane. The sun helped him knock off some miles by powering a solar canoe across gator-infested Lake Okeechobee in Florida. Vegetable oil-straight from the fryer-powered Murphy all through Texas.

Murphy's challenge took him from San Francisco to the Canadian border, across the Rockies to the Great Lakes, east to New York, south to Florida, then across the Deep South all the way to Los Angeles and back to San Francisco. To complete the trek, Murphy and his crew found innovators and inventors who knew a thing or two about designing and building vehicles, and developing fuels from a wide range of resources, and who ultimately enabled them get down the road. They also had some star power to keep them going with the likes of Daryl Hannah, Jack Johnson, Alexandra Paul from Baywatch and actor Ed Begley Jr.

Throughout their adventure, the Cool fuel team tackled the challenges of life on the American road-searching for new and out-of-this-world fuels, discovering strange vehicles, meeting amazing people and, on occasion, getting very, very lost.
You can catch Cool fuel Roadtrip this April on The Science Channel and OLN Canada beginning April 18. Check out for more information on the show and local network listings.

Alexandra Lambrinidis can be reached at
[email protected]
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