Alternative Fuels Australia

Archive for the ‘Ethanol’ Category

Fuel prices prompt call for increased ethanol use

Posted by Car Geek on January 9, 2008

Shell petrol pump. Image from http://flickr.com/photos/naturenet/561642266/, licenced under CC 2.0. With oil prices breaking the $100 per barrel barrier recently, fuel costs are increasing accordingly and consumers are becoming more worried about the impact that additional cost will have on their household and business budgets.

The answer? Increased ethanol use could hold the key to cheaper petrol prices, according to Renewable Fuels Australia, a major biofuels lobby group. The organisation’s executive director, Bob Gordon, believes that 10 per cent ethanol blends should be 3-4 cents cheaper per litre than standard unleaded fuel.

“There’s a warning bell going off saying we need to be alert to a potential severe fuel price crisis around the corner and we’re not in a very good state for handling that in Australia at the moment,” Gordon says.

E10 is available in most states around the country for a slight discount compared to unleaded fuel, however its availability varies depending on location, with more pumps available to customers in ethanol-producing regions such as Queensland.

Even the most ardent ethanol supporters are likely to see that increasing its use is a short-term solution to what is very likely a long-term problem. Still, there’s no harm in increasing the availability of ethanol blends as a substitute for petrol in the short term; people will go for a cheaper, cleaner fuel as prices increase and farmers will benefit from the increase in demand.

(Source: North Queensland Register)

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Economist issues warning on using food for fuel

Posted by Car Geek on November 28, 2007

An economist from ABN Amro has warned that the world risks running out of basic foodstock, which will further increase prices.

Michael Knox, ABN Amro’s chief economist, says that supplies such as wheat and corn are becoming more limited, in part due to the increase in production of crop-based biofuels such as ethanol. The limitation in supply can effect not only the price of basic staples such as bread, but also meat and poultry, which rely on them as a feedstock.

Grain in particular is under threat, with prices tripling over the past three years and stocks dwindling. Australia markets much of its grain overseas, but has in recent times also began using it for ethanol production at the Manildra plant near Nowra, NSW. Corn is in a similar situation, with the US rapidly increasing its ethanol production to offset the increasing price of oil. Corn ethanol has relatively fewer environmental benefits when compared to other feedstocks, however, with Mr Knox calling it “the dumbest idea that politicians have produced this century”.

Upcoming technology such as cellulosic ethanol is designed to produce environmentally friendly fuel from non-edible sources, such as switchgrass, but it may be some time before the technology is economically competitive with the established first-generation ethanol market.

(Source: Courier-Mail)

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Alternative fuel vehicle sales for October 2007

Posted by Car Geek on November 18, 2007

Alternatively fuelled vehicles showed a general improvement last month over September’s figures, with diesels showing particular improvement compared to last month and October 2006. Some of the highlights:

  • Non-petrol vehicle sales were growing faster than petrol vehicle sales compared to 2006, with combined alternative fuel passenger and 4WD vehicle sales representing 13% of the total sales in October 2007, compared with 10% in October 2006.
  • Diesel vehicles recorded the strongest growth, with diesel passenger vehicle sales growing by 14% over the previous month and 60% over October 06. Diesel 4WD sales were also higher, with October recording 21% higher sales over September.
  • Hybrid vehicles also recorded growth, particularly in the hybrid 4WD market, which grew 128% compared to September. Hybrid sales are now split roughly equally between private and fleet operators, showing an increase in the uptake of hybrids among private owners.
  • LPG was the only fuel to record a decrease in sales, likely due to a trailing off of initial interest after the federal government’s LPG incentives were introduced. Non-private or fleet operators are still overwhelmingly the major buyers of LPG passenger vehicles, buying some 50 times as many of the vehicles as private operators.
  • No data on ethanol-capable vehicles was available, though Saab is the only company to sell such production cars in Australia.

(Source: FCAI)

Posted in alternative fuels, Diesel, Ethanol, Hybrid, LPG | 1 Comment »

Coalition announces $24 million in biofuels support

Posted by Car Geek on November 13, 2007

Deputy PM Mark Vaile. Image from abc.net.au. Deputy Prime Minister Mark Vaile today announced that a re-elected coalition government would put forward $24 million in funding towards expanding the use of biofuels, at the coalition’s official campaign launch in Brisbane.

The new package would involve $8 million in assistance for up to 400 additional petrol stations around Australia to help refit them for use with E10 petrol, to increase the total number of petrol stations selling the fuel to approximately 1200. $6 million would also be earmarked for a trial of B20 biodiesel blended diesel fuel to determine if it meets heavy vehicle standards, and $10 million would be spent on the promotion and further research into biofuels, including second-generation production methods such as cellulosic ethanol and algae-derived biodiesel.

The Australian federal government currently has a target of 350 ML of biofuels by 2010, a target current production is expected to exceed in the next year or two. Vaile’s rural-focused Nationals party in particular has been a strong supporter of biofuels in Australia, as they have been largely beneficial to farmers.

(Source: The Age)

Posted in Biodiesel, Biofuels, Ethanol | Leave a Comment »

E85 coming to Australia!

Posted by Car Geek on November 2, 2007

Ethanol fuel in concentrations of 85 per cent will be available in Australia in “early 2008” through United Petroleum, potentially at a cost of $1 per litre.

Saab BioPower, as used by Team Ethanol in this year's World Solar Challenge. Image from http://flickr.com/photos/13966728@N02/1626637194/, licenced under CC 2.0.

The E85 fuel, which is composed of 85 per cent ethanol and 15 per cent unleaded petrol, will initially be available at two locations – one in Melbourne’s inner suburbs and another in the lower north shore suburbs of Sydney – however United anticipates that it will increase the number of E85 outlets available around Australia, and hopes that the major oil companies follow suit.

E85 fuel, widely available in many parts of the US and Brazil but currently unavailable in Australia, has lower net carbon dioxide emissions when compared to standard unleaded fuel. The reduction is due to the absorption of CO2 by the fuel source, primarily crops such as sugarcane and wheat. E85 has come under fire in the US for putting a strain on food supplies, where the ethanol is made from corn feedstock, and while some fear that the same may occur here, Australian feedstocks yield more than twice as much ethanol per hectare as their American counterparts and have a far lower population to service.

The move is particularly good news for Saab, who market Australia’s only E85-capable production vehicle, the Saab BioPower 9-5. Saab aftersales manager Neil Whitehead says that there is the potential for all of their vehicles to be E85-capable in the future.

“There is a chance we will [ensure all petrol-powered Saabs can run on E85],” says Whitehead. “In many respects we’ve got nothing to lose. In many respects it’s a positive move for the environment.”

Currently the Saab BioPower sells for $1000 over its petrol-only equivalent, but the introduction of the E85 fuel for which it is optimised may help boost sales. The car can run on any concentration of ethanol up to 85 per cent, but obtains the best performance from E85 due to a fuel system which determines the amount of ethanol being used. Saab claims that using E85 in its BioPower vehicle can reduce net CO2 emissions by up to 80 per cent.

(Source: drive.com.au)

Posted in Ethanol | 16 Comments »

NSW Premier orders civil servants to use ethanol blended fuel

Posted by Car Geek on November 1, 2007

New South Wales Premier, Morris Iemma, has instructed his civil servants to use ethanol-blended fuel “at all times wherever possible”, in a further show of support for the renewable fuel.

“I use ethanol fuel in my car and ED, E5 and E10 pumps are right across the state,” Mr Iemma said last week.  “The public sector will lead by example.”

The move comes almost one month after the state mandated that two per cent of fuel in NSW was required to be ethanol to encourage further use and development of the biofuel.

(Source: Herald Sun)

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This year’s Solar Challenge isn’t just about solar power

Posted by Car Geek on October 21, 2007

Waikato University's UltraCommuter experimental vehicle. Image courtesy WSC.

For the past twenty years, the World Solar Challenge has demonstrated the ability to run a car purely from the power of the sun. With climate change and resource scarcity registering as a significant public issue, however, the organisers last year added a new class to the competition that promotes environmentally friendly vehicles that don’t necessarily need to run on solar power. Here’s some of the entrants for this year:

  • Team Ethanol, from Queensland, is using a production Saab BioPower vehicle to aim for its second consecutive Greenfleet Technology Class title. The team will be running on E85 fuel produced in Sarina, in Queensland’s north.
  • The University of Adelaide has entered using its BioBike, a modified motorcycle that runs on pure biodiesel.
  • Bios Fuel Corp will be running a diesel-powered vehicle on a controversial 60/40 combination of waste oil and water. The New Zealand-based team says that their H2W+ fuel is more advanced than ethanol or biodiesel.
  • The Japanese H2Solar vehicle won’t be competing for a title, but the JonaSun team is using the race to demonstrate their technology. The experimental vehicle runs on both solar power and a hydrogen fuel cell.

The race is currently underway, with the first teams expected to make it to Adelaide by the weekend.

Posted in alternative fuels, Biodiesel, Ethanol, Hydrogen, Solar | Leave a Comment »

University develops hybrid scooter

Posted by Car Geek on October 21, 2007

Hybrid scooter. Image from the University of Tasmania. Engineers at the University of Tasmania have developed what is believed to be Australia’s first hybrid scooter, which is capable of running on both electric power and ethanol fuel.

The scooter, built by the university’s School of Engineering, is able to reach a top speed of 80 km/h and uses just 1.7 L/100km when operating in hybrid mode. The vehicle also uses regenerative braking to charge the batteries in operation, according to Steven Ambrose, a scholar at the School.

Chief investigator Dr Vishy Karri extolled the virtues of Australia developing its own expertise in alternative fuels. “The pilot program has reinforced our capability in building yet another solution to alternative fuels,” he said.

“We need several, parallel efforts to build alternative energy sources. Hydrogen technologies, biodiesel as an alternative fuel and now the plug-in hybrids are our efforts to reduce our dependency on petrol in the future. I am extremely proud of our technical team, their capabilities and their enthusiasm for new challenges.”

(S0urces: University of Tasmania, ABC News)

Posted in Ethanol, Hybrid, Scooter | Leave a Comment »

Holden VE Sportwagon gets green credentials

Posted by Car Geek on October 13, 2007

Holden VE Sportswagon. Image from carsguide.com.au. Well, props to Holden for keeping this quiet…maybe I’ll keep my mouth shut next time. 😉

Holden has showcased a special variant of their VE Commodore station wagon at the Australian International Motor Show this year, with a new engine management system designed to reduce fuel consumption and emissions. The Sportswagon concept, which may enter production next year, is based strongly on the current VE Commodore model, with the Show concept housing two interesting developments.

The first is a cylinder deactivation system, which can turn off four of the cylinders in the Sportswagon’s V8 engine under low power conditions such as cruising or idling, essentially reducing the vehicle’s fuel consumption at those times to that of a four-cylinder car. The technology is not especially new, with Holden’s parent company General Motors having worked on the technology for over twenty-five years, but it is rarely seen in Australian cars.

The second is a little more interesting, and takes its lead from sister company Saab: a fuel system that is optimised for use with ethanol-enhanced fuel, particularly E85. Unfortunately E85 is nearly impossible to find in Australia currently due to a lack of government support for it, but the vehicle can also run on E10 and pure unleaded petrol, albeit at a slight loss of performance.

The introduction of an Australian-made vehicle that is optimised for use with E85 fuel will hopefully put some pressure on governments and suppliers to provide E85 for public use. The age of the “thirsty Commodore” isn’t quite over yet, especially when it’s still using a thumping great V8 engine, but it’s a start. Who knows, one day Holden might even produce that foot-powered Commodore some stone-age journalists seem to think we’re after…

(Sources: carsguide.com.au, Daily Telegraph)

Posted in Ethanol, Holden | 1 Comment »

Could ethanol determine the balance of power in the next election?

Posted by Car Geek on October 3, 2007

//flickr.com/photos/crimesagainstlogic/1208578810/, licenced under CC 2.0. Queensland independent MP Bob Katter, who could hold the balance of power in November’s federal election, has said that his support will go to whichever party promises to mandate the use of 10 per cent ethanol in Australian petrol.

“I am not interested in ruling Australia. I am interested in what is happening to the people that I represent,” he said.

“And I tell you what, ethanol will be very high in my thinking on this.”

Alongside water infrastructure, Mr Katter lists ethanol as an important factor for the people in his electorate of Kennedy, located in central Queensland. Currently only the NSW state government mandates a minimum percentage of ethanol, with the federal government capping the maximum allowable amount at 10 per cent.

(Source: Courier Mail)

Posted in Ethanol | 2 Comments »