Lacking gasoline or diesel during World Wars I and II, scores of nations turned to solid fuels, which were burned in a restricted air supply to yield carbon monoxide—a gas possessing about two-thirds the energy of gasoline vapor. The resulting Producer Gas vehicles were fitted with a burner (commonly resembling a small water heater of the type found in homes), but otherwise looked normal. Their engines were unmodified, and operated almost as if running on gasoline.
In total, the nations of Europe and Asia fueled more than a million vehicles with wood, charcoal, coal and even compressed garbage. Though cumbersome, the method allowed food and other essentials to reach their citizens. Millions therefore owe their lives to this now long-forgotten technology.
Producer Gas: an Alternative Fuel for Motor Transport is a 108 page book highlighting experiences with this back-up fuel that can sustain civilization when normal transport is no longer possible. Hopefully, this 1986 book will be only of historic interest, but its lifesaving message needs to be kept alive. Wood-burning car races would make great contests for modern times, and this book is a good place to start.