Australian adventurer and television personality Shaun Murphy traveled across thirty states using thirty different vehicles and twelve fuel sources on a 16,000-mile alternative fuel-only roadtrip that ended in July 2004. The trip lasted nine months, and his travels were filmed for an eighteen-part television series called Coolfuel Roadtrip, which debuted last fall. The show documents Murphy, his dog, Sparky, and the Coolfuel Crew as they navigate around the United States using vehicles such as cars, motorcycles, boats, and an airplane, all powered by alternative fuels, or “coolfuels.”

“A coolfuel 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!”

Murphy and his team set out on the journey to prove that there are alternatives to gasoline and diesel fuel. The trip began in San Francisco, California, from which they traveled to the Canadian border, across the Rocky Mountains to the Great Lakes, then on to New York, down to Florida, and then across the South back to San Francisco. One of the alternative fuels Murphy used was ethanol in an E85 blend and also as 100 percent corn whiskey, which he used to power a 1982 Mooney 201 airplane over Iowa.

“When compared to gasoline emissions, ethanol reduces hydrocarbons and benzene emissions significantly,” said Murphy. “All in all, every vehicle that can use ethanol instead of gasoline helps reduce the amount of greenhouse gases being pumped into the atmosphere.”

A plane like this one was powered by ethanol across Iowa on Murphy's alternative fuel roadtrip.

A plane like this one was powered by ethanol across Iowa on Murphy’s alternative fuel roadtrip. Credit: Wikipedia

While on the roadtrip, Murphy used a variety of other alternate power sources. These sources included geothermal energy from California to Oregon, soybeans from Oregon to Canada, and hydro-power to charge an El Chopper motorbike in the Rocky Mountains. Cow manure produced electricity for operating electric bikes through Wisconsin; garbage powered him from New York to Washington, D.C.; and a mix of hemp oil and ethanol (hempoline) ran a truck with a helicopter jet turbine for an engine through Alabama and Mississippi. Murphy navigated Lake Okeechobee in Florida in a solar-powered canoe, drove vehicles operating on vegetable oil through Texas, and used wind power in New Mexico.

“The cool thing is most of the fuel we’ve used is being produced today on American farms,” Murphy said. “I never paid a cent for fuel, but I’ve had to barter for it. Along the way I’ve milked a few cows, caught a few fish, and washed a few dishes in return for fuel.”

Murphy also used some unconventional alternative power sources on his trip. He recruited engineer and inventor Russel Gehrke to modify an H2 Hummer with a gasifier that was able to turn any sugar-, yeast-, or starch-based product into a fuel. Throughout Louisiana, Murphy operated the H2 on crawfish, Pop Tarts, and Cajun food.

As a grand finale, Murphy rode the last leg of his roadtrip in a H1 Hummer limo operating on a mix of alternative energy sources. Ethanol and biodiesel powered the engine, and solid organic matter such as dog food, beans, cookies, and leftover sandwiches were mixed with ethanol in a blender and then poured into the gasifier to produce hydrocarbon gas.

More information about Murphy’s trip and CoolFuel Roadtrip showtimes can be found at

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