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Environment | Communities | Sustainability | Food | Energy | What A Waste: A Special Report

Food Waste Racers

Coffman Racing uses Thunderbolt, an ethanol made from fruit waste in Oregon.

Coffman Racing uses Thunderbolt, an ethanol made from fruit waste in Oregon.

Michael Werner/KCTS9

MONROE, Wash. — Race cars squeal around tight turns and disappear within a cloud of burning rubber at the Evergreen Speedway.

Motorsports aren’t usually thought of as environmentally friendly. But Matt Coffman, a 21-year-old professional Formula Drift racecar driver from Medford, Oregon, is breaking that stereotype.

This year, he switched to a new fuel to offset their carbon footprint. Now Coffman’s car is running on fermented food waste.

Watch video of race car that runs on food waste:

“People are just all around surprised to hear that we’re running a race car off of food-based product. That’s just unheard of,” Coffman says.

He says the fumes are less toxic for him to breath and there’s another unexpected benefit:

“The exhaust smells like berries.” 

That’s because the fuel comes from a company in Cornelius, Ore. that makes dried fruit. Drying fruit results in gallons and gallons of waste juice. The landfill wouldn’t take the juice, and it was too expensive to send through the sewer so they kept storing it until they came up with a solution.

They began fermenting the waste juice and distilling it down into a pure alcohol or ethanol that they call Thunderbolt Fuel.

“We’re hand-crafted, the microbrew of fuel,” says Mark Smith of Thunderbolt Fuels. “We’d like to do millions of gallons a year of waste-stream ethanol, and we’ll just keep working on it til we get it.”


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