Lonely Planet Writer

Coffee is helping power some of London’s iconic red buses

Like so much of its population, London’s iconic red buses are now being fuelled by coffee, as part of the ongoing effort by Transport for London (TfL) to reduce emissions in the capital.

St Paul’s reflected in office window with London bus. Image by Tonywestphoto/Getty Images

The coffee is in the form of a biofuel created by technology firm bio-bean, which extracts oil from coffee waste and mixes it with diesel. This waste is in no short supply in London, a city deeply embroiled in a coffee love affair: bio-bean estimates the average Londoner drinks 2.3 cups a day, and that the capital produces a whopping 200,000 tonnes of used grounds a year.

The founder of bio-bean, Arthur Kay, said: “It’s a great example of what can be done when we start to reimagine waste as an untapped resource.”

The firm claims it’s already extracted enough coffee oil to fuel one bus for a year, so there’s still some way to go before all of them can get their caffeine hit for the daily grind (pun definitely intended). Regardless, it’s a promising step towards the Mayor of London’s pledge for the city’s entire transport system to be emission-free by 2050.

Although this is the first time coffee has been pumped into London’s fuel supply, TfL has been dabbling in biofuels for some time, with existing ones using waste from cooking oils and animal fats. According to its website, at least a third of its 9500-strong fleet, which carries over 2 billion passengers a year, already uses greener alternatives to pure diesel.

Elsewhere in the country, there have even been efforts to power buses using human waste: Bristol’s Bio-Bus (unsurprisingly nicknamed “poo bus”) runs off biomethane gas and has no doubt been blamed for all manner of improprieties, despite being totally odourless.

Whether or not London bus-drivers will embrace opportunities to apologise for their latte-running service remains to be seen.

By Will Jones