Feeds

US prof says 'bioelectric' cars much better than biofuel

Still trying to run modern society by burning crops

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Analysis A prof in California has made the unsurprising observation that you can produce more transport miles from an acre of cropland by growing biomass for generators and using electric vehicles than by burning crop biofuels in ordinary engines.

Assistant professor Elliott Campbell and his colleagues compared two different ways of using plants to power vehicles. The first method, already an option today, was to grow feedstocks such as corn or switchgrass and convert them into ethanol fuel.

Ethanol can be burned in ordinary cars with only minor modifications, which is one reason it has already gained some traction. Another is that powerful American and European farming lobbies hope that it could mean big money for them.

The second method considered by Campbell and his collaborators was to grow biomass and use this in generators to produce electricity - so-called "bioelectricity" - to charge the batteries of electric cars.

According to the researchers:

Bioelectricity outperforms ethanol across a range of feedstocks, conversion technologies, and vehicle classes. Bioelectricity produces an average 81% more transportation kilometers and 108% more emissions offsets per unit area cropland than cellulosic ethanol. These results suggest that alternative bioenergy pathways have large differences in how efficiently they use the available land to achieve transportation and climate goals.

This is hardly a surprise, though it has seemed startling enough to the media that it's gone mainstream. After all, conventional car engines of the sort used to burn ethanol put out barely 20 per cent of their fuel's energy at the drive shaft. By contrast, an electric motor can beat 80 per cent without trouble.

Of course there are other losses in the bioelectricity method - at the generator, in charging up batteries - but this is also true for making ethanol fuel out of crops, a process which requires a lot of heat energy to accomplish. It's not exactly startling that "bioelectricity" comes out somewhat ahead.

"We found that converting biomass to electricity rather than ethanol makes the most sense for two policy-relevant issues, transportation and climate," said Campbell. "We also need to compare these options for other issues such as water consumption, air pollution and economic costs."

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
GRAV WAVE DRAMA: 'Big Bang echo' may have been grit on the scanner – boffins
Exit Planet Dust on faster-than-light expansion of universe
SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...
Craft berths at space station with supplies, experiments, toys
That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN
One MEELLION years older. Some of it anyway
Big dinosaur wowed females with its ENORMOUS HOOTER
That's right, Doris, I've got biggest snout in the prehistoric world
Japanese volcano eruption reportedly leaves 31 people presumed dead
Hopes fade of finding survivors on Mount Ontake
Relive the death of Earth over and over again in Extinction Game
Apocalypse now, and tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that ...
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.