I hear a lot about alternative fuels in this line of work; ethanol, biobutanol, vegetable oil, and of course, electricity. Each alternative presents its own set of challenges, but one alternative fuel perhaps deserves more attention; methanol.
As winter dumps her usual dose of cruelty here in New York’s Hudson Valley, like many drivers of veggie oil-powered cars, I have begun reading up on how to best prepare mine for the cold season.
There is a LOT out there on the web regarding the proper blending of WVO, diesel, kerosene, etc. After several weeks of reading several hundred blogs and forum posts, here is what I’ve deduced: Nobody really knows.
And here’s what else I’ve deduced…it really doesn’t matter. I’ve put every conceivable combination into my single-tank 240D. With the exception of a slight increase in power when using a higher ratio of dyno-diesel, there is no significant difference in performance or MPG.
[social_buttons] After years of development, the Washington-based company InnovaTek is testing a hand-sized microreactor that can convert virtually any liquid fuel into hydrogen, producing a portable hydrogen stream for use in adjoining fuel-cells.
Since the microreactor units can be linked together, InnovaTek has developed systems capable of producing anywhere from 1 to 160 gallons of hydrogen per minute—enough to supply a hydrogen refueling station or, even more exciting, creating on-board hydrogen for fuel-cell powered vehicles.
That’s InnovaTek’s eventual goal anyway: having their technology built into cars, where energy-dense renewable fuels could be converted into motion, bypassing combustion and the production of exhaust gases entirely, and powering a much more efficient engine. (Imagine for a moment, filling up on biodiesel and driving off to the exhaust-free hum of an electric motor.) InnovaTek plans on commercially licensing the microreactors by 2009.
Last week I was interviewed by Timber Talk, a forestry radio station in Arkansas, which coincidentally took place at the North American International Auto show in Detroit, Michigan. Timber Talk approached me last fall after reading a post on VegTruck.com that dealt with using straight vegetable oil as a fuel source.
Fun fact: Timber Talk radio covers a population of 2,400,000 in three states.
We spoke for about 30 minutes on a range of topics, including the new renewable fuel standard, cellulosic ethanol and GM’s announcement, algae biodiesel, vegetable oil as a fuel, and so on.
Listen to the show here.
Are biofuel mandates and tax credits such a good idea? It may be wise to learn from the EU’s experience…
After passage of the new Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) late last year (see earlier post), which mandates production of 15 billion gallons of corn-grain ethanol by by 2015, many of us are left contemplating the vast implications for US industry, not to mention commodity prices, auto manufacturing, and the greater course of biofuel research and development.
Rewind to 2003, when the European Union (EU) passed a biofuel directive requiring 5.75% of transport energy to come from biofuels by 2010, increasing to 20% by 2020. When paired with tax credits for biodiesel production, business boomed, at least for a while:
Mirroring the U.S. experience with ethanol, European companies rushed to make biodiesel out of a range of things, including rapeseed crops and used McDonald’s frying oil. Low raw-material costs and generous tax breaks meant margins were high. By last year, Europe’s annual capacity to make the fuel had climbed to 10 million metric tons from two million tons in 2003.
As with ethanol in the U.S., though, Europe now has a glut of biodiesel. The world consumed only nine million tons of biodiesel last year. Europe’s producers found buyers for just five million tons. The industry is in trouble, under pressure from soaring costs, disappearing tax breaks, less-costly imports and waning public support.