January 17, 2006

High Noon – E85 Hybrids versus Hydrogen

Chris Ellis, Chief Engineer of the PowerBeam Company Ltd, based in England, wrote an article that was picked up and distributed by the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition. He explains the mileage and environmental benefits of E85 hybrids (especially when running on cellulosic ethanol) over fuel-cell vehicles and EVs. Below are some excerpts from his compelling arguments and crystal ball gazing.


High Noon – E85 Hybrids versus Hydrogen
by Chris Ellis

This paper indicates why neither battery electric nor fuel cell vehicles will take over the U.S. car and light truck fleet, for at least the next 20 years. The probability is increasing that, by 2015, most new cars and trucks bought in the U.S. will be hybrids capable of running on a liquid fuel similar to gasoline but derived mainly from material such as corn stover and switchgrass. Much earlier, certainly by 2008, the first production 'flexible fuel hybrids' will begin to demonstrate why biofuel hybrids will eventually dominate the U.S. vehicle fleet...

Let's now consider the decision process many of California's affluent 'early adopters' are likely to follow as they consider their options over the next ten years. This particular group is especially influential, because they have already made all the major car manufacturers take hybrids seriously, essentially by buying Toyota Priuses and Honda Civic Hybrids in much larger numbers than most marketers had expected...

Given the high proportion of 'early adopters' who bought hybrids for additional reasons beyond simple savings in fuel costs, many of them will probably use E85 if they can. One motive will be to help reduce CO2 emissions. For example, the official Swedish figure for the flexible fuel Ford Focus is only 32 g/km (51 grams per mile) running on E85. The Swedish figure for the current Prius is over three times as high (104 g/km). The conventional gasoline version of the Focus produces 161 g/km. Those governments already taking Climate Change seriously are beginning to put the appropriate tax and other incentives in place to encourage the accelerated purchase of flexible fuel vehicles...

Because a car running on E85 made with cellulosic ethanol produces much less CO2 than conventional vehicles and those consuming electricity from the grid, it makes excellent sense for federal and state authorities to offer cellulosic ethanol strong support...

According to the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Energy, America can meet all its future needs for biofuels without impacting food production, provided there is a radical improvement in the fuel consumption of the vehicle fleet. Hybridization will help make this happen; combined with E85 it sets a benchmark which calls into question the strategic case for fuel cell vehicles. From now on, we need to focus on this winning combination, because it is uniquely capable of rapidly freeing most of the world from the threat of over-dependence on imported oil, with all its economic and military consequences. ..


Alternative Marketing said...

Thanks for your work here. I"m part of a marketing class at GGU that has just started a class project blog on the bio fuels industry. We're at http://mkt100.blogspot.com/ and would invite you to have a look andcomment if you'd like.


C. Scott Miller, EDP said...

I don't know whose idea it was to start a blog to study E85 but it is learning technique that I heartedly endorse.

E85 is a hot topic that is all over the media now because of the Advanced Energy Initiative and GM's flex-fuel campaign and that's a good thing. But E85 is ethanol that can be made several ways - not just through corn fermentation. I think the key to solving the energy crisis is not the product, ethanol, but broadening the range of feedstock that is used to produce the ethanol. This will enable a greater variety of communities to engage in the decentralized production of their own energy.

If I were to make a recommendation, it would be to focus on the new ways that are being pioneered for producing ethanol from a broad array of feedstock - particularly biomass and waste - enzymatic hydrolysis and synthesis gas fermentation (look up "cellulosic ethanol" on Wikipedia for a start).

Have fun!