Bioethanol Fuels and Cars
Henry Ford thought that ethanol was the "fuel of the future", and designed the original Model T to run on ethanol. The Ford Model T ran on ethanol until the year 1908, and ethanol was widely used in cars in the USA up until prohibition in 1920. The octane level of regular unleaded fuel is 95 ron (research octane number), whereas the octane rating of raw ethanol is 113.
What cars can use bioethanol?
Ethanol is already used in high performance sports cars due to its' high octane rating. Currently Fuel-Flex Vehicles (FFV's) produced by Ford, Saab and Volvo have engines designed to run on fuel mixes of up to 85% bioethanol and 15% petrol. Regular car engines can handle lower mixes of ethanol of up to 20%.
Why use bioethanol as a fuel for cars?
In the UK, bioethanol has the benefit of reduced taxation. Government incentives to offset the proposed higher production costs of bioethanol mean that a petrol at 85% ethanol would be around 2p a liter cheaper than conventional petrol. Adding bioethanol to petrol in cars also reduces the carbon monoxide emissions and improves the fuel octane.
Does bioethanol benefit the economy?
The production of bioethanol creates domestic jobs, both in the farming and fuel production industries. The energy independence of a country can be greatly improved by producing bioethanol. Reliance on foreign oil is one reason for high fuel prices at the petrol stations and this trend can be reversed by domestically producing bioethanol as a fuel source.
Is bioethanol less efficient than petrol?
All cars have an efficiency rating, measured in miles per gallon. This efficiency rating is related to the type of fuel used in the car. It has been suggested that ethanol has around a third less energy per unit volume than petrol so it is assumed that this will result in a drop in the miles per gallon for cars. Bioethanol has a much higher octane rating than petrol, however, and cars designed to run on ethanol can have more efficient engines by raising the compression ratio. This means that bioethanol is not going to raise prices or reduce fuel economy when introduced as an alternative fuel for cars.
Is bioethanol unsustainable?
Large amounts of land are required to produce crops which are turned into bioethanol, does this mean that using bioethanol as a fuel for cars is unsustainable? A report published by Science , in 2009, suggests that it may be more environmentally sustainable to use biofuels, such as bioethanol, to produce electricity in power stations; This electricity can then be used to power electric cars. As crops grown for biofuels are not going to be consumed, however, it is possible to use GM crops and year-round growing to produce the crops that will be used for bioethanol therefore increasing its sustainability as a fuel for cars.
In the search for a renewable source of energy to support a fuel dependent society, bioethanol shows a lot of promise as an alternative fuel. It can be produced from waste materials or restricted crops. Bioethanol is already a useful fuel for heating appliances, and with minimum adjustments that can be made into a fuel suitable for cars and machinery. Power stations can run on bioethanol which will reduce our dependence on non-renewable energy sources.