Globally, there are two huge, unculled herds that contribute significantly to climate change. First, the world’s 1.2 billion cars. And second? The world’s 1.5 billion cows, whose collective burping, farting, and pooping generates more greenhouse gas emissions than global transport.
The Digestive Car is a half-cow, half-car chimera created by critical product designer Yi-Wen Tseng. It humorously imagines a world in which a cow’s methane-producing digestive system is leveraged by the automobile industry as a potential solution to the impact automobiles are having on the environment. And while it’s not meant to be taken seriously, the Cronenberg-style concept at least aims to shock people into thinking more deeply about their addiction to burgers and gas-guzzlers.
In the Digestive Car, the traditional automobile engine is instead replaced by four bio-engineered stomachs, modeled after a cow’s digestive system. Instead of putting gas in the digestive car, you would ‘feed’ it gas blocks, which are then converted into methane by the Digestive Car’s ruman, reticulum, omasum, and abomasum. The methane is then converted into electricity, which then powers the car. And yes, anything not digested would then be excreted from the car’s tailpipe in the form of manure. It’s gross, but in theory, the design would negate the CO2 impact of both a cow and a car at once.
Tseng admits she doesn’t know if the Digestive Car is practical to make, but that’s not the point. “In this project, I am more concerned in waking people up [to the environmental impact of cows and transport], rather than practicality.” Even so, Tseng’s taken great pains to think the practical aspects of the project through, even going so far as to calculate what type of grass would be needed to power the car, and how that, in itself, might inspire green-consciousness.
“Imagine if you had this car which needed to be fed by grass, how important it would be to make our Earth greener.” In a world of Digestive Cars, prairies and grasslands would be even more valuable than oil fields. The only drawback would be cars that poop everywhere. Worth it?