Archive for bioethanol

Alt-fuel dot pt

Posted in Alt-Fuel, Green Tech with tags , , , on 11/06/2016 by Alexander

If you haven’t sussed it before, I live in the westernmost country of Continental Europe, Portugal. You’ve probably heard of us through the doings of Cristiano Ronaldo, and not much else. Perhaps the odd international bailout?

Thing is, I was born in England, and for all the flaws the English might have, I have a sensation that things back in old Blighty were a bit more civilised. I could rant for paragraphs to follow on all sorts of corrupt sectors of Portuguese society and our backward mentality, but this is a car blog after all, so I’ll stick to criticising in the context of automobiles.

The Portuguese are a paradoxical bunch of misers who are at the same time squanderers. They will spend €50,000 or more on a brand new Merc, even though they’re not sure they can afford it, but buy the cheapest, crappiest diesel with the smallest, most under-powered engine ‘to save money’ on fuel. They won’t take their cars to the dealership after buying it because it’s slightly more costly, and are willing to let their cars be subject to hack-jobs undertaken by shifty, lazy mechanics to save the odd euro. They drive like maniacs, with the throttle glued to the floor, and then go on national television to complain how fuel is expensive and how close to bankruptcy they come to after filling their tank. LPG sells quite well here, only due to the inherent savings on fuel. The plus-side of it being more ecological is, to most, a minor advantage. To be perfectly honest, I can count myself to be one of these cheapskates, and I must be fair to LPG-users, they are somewhat smarter than the average motorist. The general picture to be had of car-owning Portuguese are people who want the nicest, most expensive, status-enhancing car while wishing to pay next to nothing for running costs.

With this sort of mindset, I would’ve thought there would be the odd entrepreneur or two who’d be interested in the whole alt-fuel market. Let’s face it, in a country where people are so conscientious regarding the money they need to fork out to keep their cars moving, it’d be natural to assume there would be those willing to invest in offering alternatives, since there’s a big market to tap into. So does anyone do this? No. Google something like “biofuel in Portugal” and you get back paltry, outdated results. And this is what annoys me so much about living in this country. Any clever new niche always takes far too much time to be developed, and when it is there are all sorts of hindrances.

I’m one of those people who still believe biofuels may still play a significant role in keeping vehicles in motion in years to come, and I wish I lived in a country with more than shadowy prospects that this will happen. But alas, this rectangle of Iberian Peninsula has many hurdles to overcome, such as:

  • A previous government passed legislation years ago stating that by 2010 a certain percentage of fuel sold in the country has to come from alternative, non-fossil fuel sources. 2010 came and went and it proves that the said laws were no more than lip-service, since nothing has changed.
  • Said government did nothing to remove all the red tape anyone who wants to pursue alt-fuel develop has to wade through to do so, nor has any government since.
  • Galp, the largest national petroleum-derivative retailer, has its nasty tentacles everywhere, and try to stamp out alt-fuels whenever possible. I have little doubt they’re the lobbyists behind all the previously mentioned bureaucratic demands.
  • People in general are too stupid to see how much money they can save. If they did, there would be demand for change. Nothing gets the mob grumbling more than trying to put your fingers in their pockets.

So, in summary, I’m screwed. I’ll have to wait for electric cars.

From corn to wood: second-generation biofuels

Posted in Alt-Fuel with tags , on 26/02/2013 by Alexander

Biofuel is often cited as having a perverse trade-off: you grow corn, but instead of using it to feed people, you use it to make fuel. Anyway, second-generation biofuels aim to end the “food vs. fuel” debate by using non-food stuffs such as the non-edible parts of crops, or substituting the use of corn for woody biomass. Good stuff.

Tips for car manufacturers to stop being prats

Posted in Alt-Fuel, Car conception, Green Tech with tags , , , , , on 08/07/2011 by Alexander

Last post, I went out of my way to recommend gas turbines as a new avenue of research for car engines, though I understand why most car manufacturers would prefer not to go down that path just now, as I mentioned right at the end. Fair enough.

However, as I keep saying, auto makers drag their feet when it comes to pushing greener technology, and there’s a lot more that could be done. And I’m not talking about developing a certain technology that will take years to be available, I refer to currently available and feasible solutions that aren’t as widespread as they should be.

So here’s some free tips for you people who build cars:

  • Make start/stop tech standard on every car you sell, every model, every trim level. If it works on either a gigantic Porsche Panamera engine or a 1.6 diesel, it can work in any car on any engine. If this was done now, the staggering amount of emissions cut and fuel saved at every traffic light in the world would, respectively, cut carbon levels as if Genghis Khan were alive and save motorists so much money at the pump it would end the recession.
  • Regenerative braking standard on all models, engines, trim-levels, etc. Every time you brake, you generate some of the power necessary to get moving again. BMW and Volvo are already planning to introduce this, but only on some cars. Consequences? See above.
  • Make all petrol engines factory-prepared for bioethanol/E85. You might argue it’s a dead-end fuel that didn’t catch on when it had the chance, but that’s because manufacturers like Ford and Volvo didn’t push it hard enough when they started selling cars with engines that could run on E85. If that were the case, people in general would take more interest, suss the advantages for themselves and start to create more market for it. In consequence, more fuel pumps would sell the stuff and governments would be forced to clear up the related legislation. Besides, when Brazil and China become the only countries in the world with money left, the Brazilians will start hocking their ethanol fuel like there’s no tomorrow. So let’s start getting prepared right now.
  • Where are the hybrids in every range of every brand? If a lone IBM engineer can turn any car into a hybrid, how come car companies, who will probably spend millions in R&D for a new paint colour, don’t seem to be able to fathom how to do this?. All you have to do is stick some electric motors in the hubs of wheels! How hard can it be?!

And car manufacturers, all of this should have been done yesterday. So chop-chop.

Alt Fuel #3 – Biodiesel, bioethanol and such

Posted in Alt-Fuel, Green Tech with tags , , , , , on 23/07/2009 by Alexander

For most who think they’re eco-conscious, the future is a humdrum of bikes, gliders and electricity. Well, the internal combustion engine is here to stay and won’t be going away anytime soon. Let’s look at the bright side: there’s a hundred years of R&D to behind current engine efficiency and performance, and that’s quite a head start compared to other means of propulsion. In 1990, 1.6l petrol engine got you some 90hp. Today a 1.4l gets you a mental 150hp. And with heavier cars and for less fuel! Ay caramba! If you let it keep evolving it’ll only get better. However, perhaps it’s time to reconsider exactly which chemicals our current internal combustion engines burn. Let’s start with biofuels.

– Avoids the need for petroleum derivatives.
– Exhaust fumes are cleaner.
– Can be made from hemp (Hemp is one of the fastest growing biomasses known, and requires little to no pesticides, no herbicides, controls erosion of the topsoil, and produces oxygen).
– Biodiesel can be made unbelievably easily from used cooking oil.
– Bioethanol is very efficient as a fuel additive for petrol. Biobutanol can replace petrol altogether.
– Most cars don’t need a single modification to use most biofuels.
Second-generation biofuels may solve a lot of the cons of current biofuel production

– Fuel instead of food. Lots of wheat and such is being diverted to make things such as biodiesel. Producing carburant for your car at the expense of feeding people is insane, selfish, immoral and just plain wrong. Second-generation biofuels may help solve this by using the non-food part of the crop like the chaff and stalks.
– Some biodiesel-production plants are filthy and pollutant, which is a bit of a contradiction.
– Certain 1.8l petrol engines, called Flexifuel, in new Fords and Volvos have been modified so they can use a certain type of bioethanol, E85. This is 85% bioethanol and 15% petrol. Ever heard of it? No? That’s the problem. This stuff doesn’t catch on easily. And I’ve never seen or heard of a pump for this kind of fuel. Hard to be widespread that way.

Hybrids and Plug-In Hybrids
Plug-In Electric Vehicles
Biodiesel, bioethanol and such
Carbon-neutral Algae-based fuels
Hydrogen fuel cells
Hybrid Retrofitting

Alt-fuel – Intro

Posted in Alt-Fuel, Green Tech with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on 17/07/2009 by Alexander

One of my favourite ever posts in my now-gone old blog was a post on the different types of fuel that were cropping up at the time. The idea was to enumerate all the pros and cons of each fuel to try to imagine what will be powering our cars in a decade or so. We are at a crossroads, with some brands pushing for hybrids, others plug-in hybrids, others hydrogen, others bioethanol, etc., etc., etc.. This was all especially pertinent back when oil prices were whopping and filling your tank meant selling one of your children. Now those prices have gone down and everyone’s reeling at the money the financial system sucked into nothingness, and it would seem people have stopped worrying about what it costs to fill their tank and what alternatives are out there to make this less painful on your wallet. Or at least it seems that way for the time being, but will change now prices are rising yet again. However, the ball was set rolling, and slowly, the normally aloof masses are becoming aware of cheaper and more enviromentally-friendly ways to run their automobiles. So let me repeat a now-lost post and give you my idea on what the alternatives are. We’ll get cracking in the next post.

Hybrids and Plug-In Hybrids
Plug-In Electric Vehicles
Biodiesel, bioethanol and such
Carbon-neutral Algae-based fuels
Hydrogen fuel cells
Hybrid Retrofitting