Bio-Electricity Far More Efficient For Transportation Than Biofuels... Better Greenhouse Gas Reduction Too

switchgrass photo

Whether produced from corn or switchgrass, electricity is more efficient for powering vehicles than burning liquid fuel. Photo: Adsit Adventures via flickr.

Pay attention, because this next one has some serious implications for energy and transportation policy, and infrastructure: According to research just published in the online edition of Science, rather than converting energy crops to liquid fuel for use in an internal combustion engine, it is far more efficient to convert them to electricity to power vehicles. Compared to ethanol, this delivers 80% more miles per acre of crops, while also doubling the emission savings:Researchers from the University of California, Merced and Stanford University's Program on Food Security and the Environment performed a life-cycle analysis of bio-electricity and ethanol which looked at both the energy produced by each technology but also the energy consumed in producing the fuels and the vehicles powered by them.

Electricity = 14,000 Miles Per Acre, Liquid Fuel = 9,000 Miles
Science Daily sums it up:

Bioelectricity was the clear winner in the transportation-miles-per-acre comparison, regardless of whether the energy was produced from corn or from switchgrass, a cellulose-based energy crop. For example, a small SUV powered by bioelectricity could travel nearly 14,000 highway miles on the net energy produced from an acre of switchgrass, while a comparable internal combustion vehicle could only travel about 9,000 miles on the highway. (Average mileage for both city and highway driving would be 15,000 miles for a biolelectric SUV and 8,000 miles for an internal combustion vehicle.)

Much Greater GHG Emissions Savings
And then there are the differences in greenhouse gas emissions:
The energy from an acre of switchgrass used to power an electric vehicle would prevent or offset the release of up to 10 tons of CO2 per acre, relative to a similar-sized gasoline-powered car. Across vehicle types and different crops, this offset averages more than 100% larger for the bioelectricity than for the ethanol pathway.

via: Science Daily
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