Researchers have spent the last few decades testing out all kinds of different sustainable vehicle fuels. Their goal has been to try and find potential replacements for gasoline that are both better for the environment and cheaper to use in cars, trucks, buses and other vehicles.  It has been a real challenge to find viable alternative fuel sources, but there have been some encouraging signs, especially in recent years, that have given hope to those researchers who have devoted their professional lives to finding these innovative new fuels.

In early July, a group of engineering students from the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands introduced the world to a new type of fuel that might just prove to be a winning formula for the automotive industry. The students figured out a way to convert formic acid—an acid that forms naturally in plants called stinging nettles and several kinds of ants—into electricity. While formic acid is commonly used to preserve livestock feed, these students found that when they blended formic acid with a performance enhancing agent, they were able to create the compound Hydrozine, which they then used to power a bus. The students are still conducting tests on their formic acid-powered bus, but they are optimistic that the bus might be able to run entirely on the formic acid blend by the end of 2017.

It’s unclear if a bus powered by formic acid is something that would have widespread appeal. As of now, the bus requires a small trailer on the back where the formic acid is housed and converted into electricity, according to Engadget. But if nothing else, these students have proven that formic acid could have useful practical applications in the alternative fuel market.

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