Ethanol auto news

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Figuring out exactly how much it costs to charge Tesla Model S

08/02/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Ethanol, Tesla Motors

Tesla Model S

Is the Tesla Model S an electricity guzzler? One driver trying to answer that question says it does gobble down more juice than previously thought, but it's not time to make Hummer jokes just yet.

First, the goal: Tesla's claims that properly set up home-charging stations can get about a 91-percent efficiency rate.

Rob M. from Teslarati has been diligently tracking electricity used by his home charging station - made up of a NEMA 14-50 outlet that was professionally installed and Tesla's Universal Mobile Connector (UMC) - since June, as we reported here. The results for the month that ended July 21 revealed that the Model S was taking in about 82 percent of the electricity it was pulling from the system, indicating an 18-percent loss of electricity. Most EVs are thought to charge at an 88 to 90-percent efficiency rate.

The downside to his results? About $26 more per month in electricity costs than previously estimated on about 2,400 miles worth of driving. There is a positive upshot, though: his monthly fuel savings totaled about $334 compared to driving an internal combustion engine vehicle.

These early results are intriguing, and make us wonder... Is anyone else checking in on their Model S charging efficiency?

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EcoCar2 is on the hunt for a better, cleaner Chevy Malibu [w/video]

06/13/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Biodiesel, Emerging Technologies, Ethanol, Green Culture, Hybrid, MPG, Chevrolet

The students spent three years transforming an ordinary Chevy Malibu into a revolutionary vehicle.

Not far from the building where General Motors once invented the Chevy Volt, a dozen or so college students are standing on the blacktop alongside a test track, watching a professional driver push the limits of a plug-in hybrid car they've built that's far more radical.

These students, from Colorado State University, have spent the past three years transforming an ordinary Chevy Malibu into a revolutionary vehicle. At first glance, it still looks like a regular sedan. But under the hood, they've installed a hybrid powertrain that contains both hydrogen and electric power sources. Even by the standards of the Department of Energy competition they're participating in, it's an outlier.

That's exactly what they had in mind.

"We didn't want to come here and tell them how to build a better Volt," said Tom Bradley, faculty adviser for the Colorado State team. "They already know how to do that. We can tell them how to think about these possibilities in a whole new way."

Continue reading EcoCar2 is on the hunt for a better, cleaner Chevy Malibu [w/video]

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Shell Eco-marathon Americas 2014: Students find upsides pretty much everywhere

05/01/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Diesel, Emerging Technologies, Ethanol, EV/Plug-in, Green Culture, Hydrogen, MPG, AutoblogGreen Exclusive, Natural Gas

Shell Eco-marathon 2014

The skies threatened rain, but aside from a few fat drops struggling down through the Texas air, the track remained dry through the end of the 2014 Shell Eco-marathon Americas. Given the haphazard way some of the vehicle bodies were held together - a bit of velcro or pieces of tape doing the job door hinges do on normal cars - this was a very good thing. The dry roads also meant that all of the teams were competing on an even footing, in this one aspect at least. After all, the 100-plus college and high school teams came to downtown Houston, TX this past weekend from across North, Central and South America and from a wide variety of backgrounds. Given wildly difference school sizes, team sizes and budgets, the students all had on thing in common beyond the dry road: true passion for achieving high efficiency.

There were failures everywhere but also a whole lot of successes.

There were first-time teams, there were veterans. There were schools that took inspiration from the movies with cars based on Back To The Future and the Indiana Jones movies and some that went for the most efficient shape they could CAD. There was a middle school student who talked her way onto a high school team. There were seniors giving the Eco-marathon one last go before graduation. There were failures everywhere but also a whole lot of successes.

This year, we thought we'd learn a bit more about the students and their stories. Last year, we reported an in-depth story on how the Eco-marathon works, which you can read here. Basically, to recap, the students try to expend the least amount of energy while covering the most distance. Within the rules, which emphasize safety, there is a lot of freedom for the teams to experiment, which is why you see all sorts of vehicles running around the track. Not a lot has changed, ruleswise, from last year, aside from the addition of gas-to-liquid as a possible fuel and a rules change for EVs that we'll get to in a moment. You can find the complete 2014 results here, but the headline number is that Laval University, from Canada, won the gasoline prototype category with 2823.41 miles per gallon. The University of Toronto Supermileage team was close behind with 2711.97 mpg. Given the distances covered and the way the small amount of fuel burned gets measured, that's basically a tie. That's how the Toronto team tells it, anyway.

Continue reading Shell Eco-marathon Americas 2014: Students find upsides pretty much everywhere

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SOTU: President Obama promises tougher truck mpg standards, more renewable energy

01/30/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Biodiesel, Emerging Technologies, Ethanol, MPG, Solar, Legislation and Policy, Natural Gas, USA

State of Union speech President Obama

The green car rhetoric of President Obama's State Of The Union speech last night was much, much softer than it was three years ago. That was when he spoke about a million electric vehicles on the road by 2015. It was even less vociferous than last year, when Obama said we could take money given to oil and gas companies and put it into an "Energy Security Trust." So, what is the state of the green car union for 2014? In a word: renewable. In two more words: natural gas.

"The debate is settled. Climate change is a fact" - President Obama

President Obama said that, "America is closer to energy independence than we've been in decades," thanks to both natural gas (which is a good thing, "if extracted safely") and an ever-growing amount of solar energy. He said that another American home or business "goes solar" every four minutes and he called on Congress to "help by putting people to work building fueling stations that shift more cars and trucks from foreign oil to American natural gas." On the regulatory side, Obama said he would work "in the coming months" to set a new fuel economy standard for trucks. This means heavy trucks like semis, as light-duty trucks are already covered in the 54.5 miles per gallon CAFE standard for 2025 agreed to in 2011. The President did not mention biofuels or plug-in vehicles in his speech. He did acknowledge new General Motors CEO Mary Barra, who was a guest of the First Lady.

As is usual with a State of the Union speech, details were scarce, so we'll have to see how this all plays out in the coming months. One thing that did come across loud and clear, though, was that Obama does not want to discuss the matter with global warming deniers. "The debate is settled," he said, "Climate change is a fact. And when our children's children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say 'Yes, we did.'"

You can find the full transcript of the SOTU speech here or watch it here. We have reactions from some groups in the green car sector available below.

Continue reading SOTU: President Obama promises tougher truck mpg standards, more renewable energy

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EPA eases off ethanol, a bit, for first time ever

11/18/2013   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Ethanol

Ethanol in Gasoline

Forget raising the national ethanol blend in standard gasoline to 15 percent (E15), the Environmental Protection Agency has, for the first time ever, proposed reducing the ethanol requirement in the American gas supply.

The reduction (technically, a not-as-big-as-possible increase) was proposed Friday (PDF) and, according to The New York Times, represents something of a head-scratcher for the ethanol industry, despite being expected. Basically, what's happening is that enough ethanol is being produced to fulfill the EPA's current ethanol requirement. Most of the ethanol is used to make a 10-percent blend with gasoline (E10), and some is used to make E85. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 and the Renewable Fuels Standard say an ever-increasing level of ethanol should be used in the national fuel supply, but the EPA has had to adjust the biofuel mix because of the "blend wall." This is the level where we can't pour any more ethanol into the gasoline supply because it would push the overall blend above 10 percent (plus limited use of E85 and E15). Therefore, the EPA is recommending that the US add 15.21 billion gallons of ethanol to the gasoline supply in 2014. That's still within the 15-15.52 billion gallon projected range, but in the lower half. In the proposal's language:

[The] EPA is proposing to adjust the applicable volumes of advanced biofuel and total renewable fuel to address projected availability of qualifying renewable fuels and limitations in the volume of ethanol that can be consumed in gasoline given practical constraints on the supply of higher ethanol blends to the vehicles that can use them and other limits on ethanol blend levels in gasoline.

In other words, since y'all aren't using enough ethanol, we're going to cut back. The move was applauded by the oil industry and scoffed at by many farmers.

Most of the ethanol in the commercial supply is made from corn, but the EPA also regulates cellulosic ethanol, and there the news is even worse for biofuel supporters. The EPA said, "Based on an assessment of the available volumes of cellulosic biofuels, EPA is proposing to set the cellulosic biofuel standard at 17 million gallons, significantly lower than CAA target of 1.75 billion gallons (PDF).

Since this is just a proposed rule, there is still time for the public and private companies to weigh in. The EPA will release details on an upcoming hearing in the future.

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Maine votes to ban ethanol in gasoline, takes stand against E15

05/11/2013   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Ethanol, Legislation and Policy


If it can go in your gas tank, it's potentially controversial up in Maine. A few years ago, out-of-spec gas pumps were a problem. Today, the issue is the corn-based biofuel ethanol, which the state legislature is taking a strong stand against. Citing potential engine and environmental damages, Maine's state legislature has taken another step to potential rid itself of ethanol blends into its gasoline inventory.

Legislators have approved a bill by more than a 3-to-1 margin that would ban ethanol blends in Maine - as long as two other nearby states do the same, the Bangor Daily News reports. State leaders also supported a resolution urging the government to ban gasoline with a 15 percent ethanol blend (known as E15), altogether. Most gasoline in the US contains up to 10 percent ethanol blend.

Maine regulators started talking about a statewide E15 ban early this year. The state said at the time that at least two other New England states would have to go along so that Maine refiners wouldn't have to make a custom blend for the state only, which would cause the state's fuel prices to jump.

On the federal level, the word is that E15 is fine. Last June, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officially allowed for public sales of E15 as part of an effort to cut foreign-oil dependency. Groups such as AAA have since been critical of the EPA's decision, saying that E15 would cause engine damage as well as food shortages. E15 has been sold in some states since the middle of 2012, starting in Kansas, and there have not been any widespread reports of problems with the biofuel but it's not being sold just like any other fuel.

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Lawmakers ask EPA to look into gas price increase as ethanol credits rise

03/23/2013   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Ethanol, Legislation and Policy, USA

e85 ethanol station

A pair of US lawmakers told the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that ethanol credits are leading to some deficits. Attempting to stem what they say could be an additional boost in gas prices prior to the busy summer-driving months, David Vitter (R-LA) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) are raising questions, Reuters reports.

In a letter to the EPA, the two senators say fuel suppliers are having a progressively harder time buying enough credits, or RINs (Renewable Identification Number), from renewable fuel producers to keep up with federal mandates.

Central to the issue is the fact that prices for RINs have jumped higher than Superman on his best day. They are now worth more than a dollar a gallon, up from one cent a gallon (!) in December. With ethanol accounting for about 10 percent of gasoline, the RIN price jump translates to a 10-cent-a gallon increase in gas prices. Average fuel prices are up about 40 cents a gallon compared to December, to about $3.70 a gallon, according to AAA.

Other senators from ethanol producing states say the jump in RIN prices has less to do with demand or stiffening biofuel mandates and may have more to do with speculators playing the RIN market. Recently, a 12-year-sentence was handed down to a fraudster misrepresenting biodiesel RIN credits.

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