The Road Ahead : August September 2007
News in Brief WITH JON DEE Making synthetic diesel ECO- MOTORING US TO CUT FUEL The US has moved to improve fuel economy for its vehicles for the first time in 32 years, following the passing of a recent energy bill in the Senate. Although yet to be approved by the House, the proposed law would require cars, and more impor tantly, light trucks and spor ts utility vehicles to achieve 35 miles per gallon (8 litres/100 km) by 2020. America's current Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards are 27.5 mpg for cars (approx 10 litres/100 km) and 22.2 mpg for SUVs and small trucks (approx 12.8 litres 100 km). In Australia, the passenger fleet average is now measured in grams of carbon dioxide per km to better capture all fuel types. The 2006 average was 230.5 g/km (or roughly 9.9 litres/100 km in petrol terms). GREEN LEANINGS Roy Morgan Research reveals that more than half those Australians intending to buy a new car in the next four years would "seriously consider" a hybrid (petrol/electric) vehicle. The study showed rapid growth in the small car segments had spurred the rise in hybrid stocks and 60 percent of light and small car buyers have hybrid vehicles on their shopping lists. Par t of their popularity can be traced to women in higher income households in Queensland and Victoria, but interest levels have also increased around 8 percent a year since Honda and Toyota first launched hybrids in 2001. The sur vey also reveals that 74 percent of all new car buyers now agree "that fuel efficiency is more impor tant than high per formance". 16 AUG/SEP 07 Photo DaimlerChr ysler company Choren has come up with a solution that could turn leftover waste from crops such as straw into fuel. Using a technology developed in the 1920s called Fischer- Tropsch synthesis, Choren is turning biomass into high-quality, synthetic fuel for vehicles. The initial feedstock for their 'SunDiesel' product was woodchips, but maximising usage of waste products is high on the company's agenda. Choren says that more than half of the 40 million tonnes of straw har vested each year on German farms is ploughed back into the soil, as there is currently no alternative commercial use for the material. Conver ted, this would be enough to produce 4 million tonnes of SunDiesel -- equivalent to about 14 percent of current diesel consumption levels in Germany. The Fischer-Tropsch conversion process enables Choren to use all of the plant matter. This biomass-to-liquid technology is creating a fuel which Choren says has better ignition per formance than conventional diesel fuel, has no aromatics or sulphur and significantly reduces pollutants from exhaust emissions. The company also claims that SunDiesel can be used without any adjustment to existing infrastructure or engine systems. The European Union (EU) biofuels directive aims to give biofuels a 5.75 percent share of the transpor t fuel market by 2010. This ambitious target may not be reached, but it is providing a strong lead for industr y to follow. With corporations such as Volkswagen and DaimlerChr ysler now backing Choren's SunDiesel, this EU directive has driven a technological breakthrough that could turn large amounts of biomass waste into fuel. Jon Dee is the founder and chairman of Planet Ark (www.planetark.org). Irecently spent a week driving Saab's flex-fuel BioPower car. With the technical potential to run on E85 fuel (85 percent ethanol content), this high-powered car was a great adver tisement for the benefits of biofuel. This growing usage of biofuels to combat climate change and oil dependency has won over many in the environment and farming sectors. Despite this, there has been a growing concern that biofuels are tackling one problem but replacing it with another. A good example of this concern is the recent UN annual assessment of farming trends. This predicts that food prices will rise in the next 10 years as increasing amounts of crops are used to create biofuels. This UN warning comes as the biofuels industr y works to minimise the environmental footprint of its fuels. German "This UN warning comes as the biofuels industry works to minimise the environmental footprint of its fuels."
June July 2007
October November 2007