Across the desert to Timbuktu in a car fuelled by chocolate

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The Independent Online

One might think a chocolate-powered vehicle would be as much use as a chocolate tea cup – but two British adventurers have embarked on a trek across Europe and west Africa which aims to show that it could be a new, clean mode of transport.

Andy Pag and his co-driver John Grimshaw left Mr Grimshaw's home town of Poole, Dorset, on a cross-Channel ferry yesterday. They are travelling in a Ford Iveco Cargo lorry powered by fuel which began life as chocolate, in an attempt to raise awareness of "green" biofuels. Their 4,500-mile (7,250 km) trip across the Sahara desert to Timbuktu in Mali should take about three weeks.

The pair have taken with them a small processing unit to convert waste oil products into fuel, which they will then donate to an African charity, along with the lorry. They are taking 2,000 litres (454 gallons) of biodiesel made from 4,000kg (8,818lb) of chocolate misshapes – equivalent to 80,000 chocolate bars.

But they will not be able to dip into their tank if they feel peckish because biodiesel does not look or smell like ordinary chocolate. It is made from cocoa butter extracted from the waste chocolate.

The pair will drive across France and Spain and then catch another ferry to Morocco. Mr Pag, 34, from Croydon, and 39-year-old Mr Grimshaw, an electrician, will then cross the country to Mauritania. From there, they will drive through the Sahara to Timbuktu.

To traverse the shifting desert sands and the pot-holed roads in Mali, Mr Pag and Mr Grimshaw will drive two converted 4x4 Toyota Land Cruisers, which are carried in the main lorry. The pair wanted to come up with a trip that would be carbon neutral. They contacted a Preston company, Ecotec, which had been testing a biofuel made from waste chocolate collected from factories. Ecotec turned the waste chocolate into bio-ethanol by mixing it with vegetable oil collected from restaurants.

Mr Pag said: "Timbuktu is renowned as being the back of beyond, the furthest place away that you can possibly imagine. If we can make it there with biofuel, there is no reason why motorists can't use it on the school run or their commute to work."

Mr Pag said he hoped the expedition would encourage people to think about their carbon footprint when travelling. He added: "I have made many expeditions and visited these amazing landscapes but to get there I have contributed to their destruction by driving a guzzling diesel engine.

"I wanted to do something that is carbon neutral. What we have actually done is carbon negative."