GM is pinning its biofuel hopes on Coskata, a biofuel start-up bankrolled by the likes of VC heavyweight Vinod Khosla, which has devised a commercially viable process to bring cellulosic ethanol to market by 2011. Coskata's process relies on a 3-step syngas-to-ethanol process (pictured above) and patented microorganisms to produce ethanol from almost any carbon-based feedstock - garbage, plant waste, even old tires - for roughly half the cost of producing gasoline.
It is enzyme independent and wouldn't require the addition of any extra chemicals or other pre-treatments. It consumes less than 1 gallon of water to produce the equivalent of ethanol; this compares very favorably with other processes, which typically consume upwards of 3 gallons. The proprietary process would be used to make ethanol from GM facilities' non-recyclable vehicle parts and waste
Image courtesy of m.gifford via flickr
In initial tests conducted by the Argonne National Laboratory, the ethanol generated 7.7 times the energy used to produce it; corn-based ethanol, by comparison, only generates 1.3 times the energy used to produce it. Compared to gasoline, it also cut carbon dioxide emissions by 84%.
Coskata and GM expect to have a pilot plant up and operating by the fourth quarter of 2008; the ethanol will be used to test vehicles at GM's Milford Proving Grounds. The start-up expects to have a commercial-scale plant with the capacity to manufacture 50-100 m gallons of ethanol per year going by 2011.
Via ::Reuters: GM eyes breakthrough in cellulosic ethanol(news website)