For most of us, the thought of a bus running on manure-based biomethane probably conjures a very specific image: a clunky old coach creeping along a back country road at a top speed of around 45 miles per hour; a perpetually sputtering vehicle that emits an eye-watering odor evocative of the countryside surrounding it; a passenger bus that's true to its bovine roots, is slow, smelly and just a wee bit ill-tempered if pushed too far.

However, as the Berkshire, England-based operator of the biomethane compressed natural gas-fueled “Bus Hound” recently set out to prove, this isn’t the case at all. Cow poop-powered passenger buses don’t stink and are certainly not sluggish.

In fact, they can be speedy. Real speedy.

Earlier this month, Reading Buses temporarily took Bus Hound, a passenger bus done up with a black and white paint job resembling a Freisian cow, off of its normal service route, removed its 56 mph-tops speed limiter and set off for some timed laps at Millbrook Proving Ground in Bedford, a famed vehicle testing facility that normally sees the likes of seriously souped-up sports cars.

During the PR stunt-y session, Bus Hound reached 76.785 mph — the fastest recorded speed ever for a “regular bus" (read: a non-modified service bus built and designed for passenger service). The UK Timing Association confirmed this record-breaking feat of manure momentum, although the folks at Guinness World Records have said 150 mph has to be reached for inclusion in its record books.

"We've laid down a challenge for other bus operators to best our record and we had to make it a bit hard for them,” Reading Buses’ chief engineer Howard Payne John Bickerton tells the BBC. "Most importantly we wanted to get the image of bus transport away from being dirty, smelly, and slow. We're modern, fast, and at the cutting edge of innovation.”

He adds: “It was an impressive sight as it swept by on the track. It sounded like a Vulcan bomber — the aerodynamics aren't designed for going 80 mph."

While a cow pie-powered bus with a snazzy Holstein print sporting the name “Bus Hound” may be a bit confusing, it’s actually named in honor of the Bloodhound, a pencil-shaped supersonic vehicle designed to break the land speed record of 1,000 mph. “Whilst our bus may not reach those heady heights of speed, it will nevertheless be travelling faster than your average bus,” explains the Reading Buses website. Reading Buses goes on to note that "everything will be put back" — speed limiter, included one would assume — following the stint at Millbrook.

Bus Hound shouldn’t be confused with Bio-Bus, another biomethane-powered British passenger bus that shuttles commuters between the Bristol Airport and the city of Bath. While similar, there is one key difference between the two vehicles: While Bus Hound is powered exclusively by barnyard waste, the biogas used to fuel Bio-Bus comes from human poo (and food scraps).

Do I, ahem, smell a race-off in the near future?

Via [BBC] via [The Verge]

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Promo image: Reading Buses

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.