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Google Tests Biofuel Car

Google has been using Cool Planet Energy Systems’ biofuel blend to run a fleet vehicle at the search giant’s Mountain View, Calif. campus, according to the energy-tech startup.

Google Ventures — along with General Electric, BP, ConocoPhillips, NRG and the Constellation Energy division of Exelon — is also an investor in the Camarillo, Calif.-based Cool Planet.

During the Google trial, a campus vehicle called GRide ran on Cool Planet’s biofuel for more than 2,400 miles. By running on a five percent Cool Planet “carbon-negative” fuel blended with 95 percent regular gasoline, the test car blend met California’s 2020 Low Carbon Fuel Standard more than seven years ahead of schedule, according to the company.

The control car used 100 percent regular gasoline.

GRide successfully passed five smog checks with no significant difference between cars, Cool Planet says. The total mileage of the test car was virtually the same as the control car, driving a total of 2,490 stop-and-go miles compared with the control car’s 2,514 miles.

Other field tests planned include a partnership with Ventura County, and another test at a different California investor’s headquarters, Cool Planet says.

Cool Planet calls the Google test a “major breakthrough” in the commercialization and affordability of biofuels from nonfood biomass that can run in any vehicle. The company says it expects to produce high-octane gas at $1.50 per gallon without government subsidies.

The company says its biofuels remove carbon from the atmosphere during production. Cool Planet’s proprietary two-step thermal processing technology takes non-food biomass such as wood chips, agricultural waste like corn stover, and energy crops including giant miscanthus and switch grass, and converts them into hydrocarbons.

A catalytic conversion then produces high-octane gasoline that the company says is fully compatible with today’s standard automobiles and existing conventional fuel distribution systems.

CEO Howard Janzen says Cool Planet’s gasoline is price competitive because the company mass produces mobile, prefabricated micro-refineries that are easily transportable to the biomass source. This reduces costs associated with feedstock transportation, and lowers the price of gas.

Janzen says each micro-refinery is 100 times smaller than a typical oil refinery and can produce 10 million gallons of fuel per year. He says this will allow the company to compete with oil at $50 a barrel without any government subsidies.

Last month, German carrier Lufthansa signed an agreement with Australian-based Algae Tec to build a large-scale algae-to-aviation biofuels production facility in Europe.

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4 thoughts on “Google Tests Biofuel Car

  1. I think it is great that people and corporations continue to explore for solutions. The only misstep in the plan is its conflict with non-food crops grown on land. Most comments in the debate think only food-crops vs. non-food crops, but the debate is really land-based and not land-based crops. If I grow 1000 acres of corn and use 300 acres for biofuels, I have 700 acres for food. If I decide that switch grass is more moral, then on those 1000 acres I will plant 300 acres of switch grass and 700 acres of corn. I end up with the same amount of food, except now I can’t transfer those 300 acres of switch grass to food when the food supply declines due to drought, etc. I am not implying that we must use corn, but that the switch to non-food biomass won’t address the biofuel issue of food that most people hang their point on.

  2. I am searching for a test car to be used in a neew experiment. It is based on the called Joe Cell; I tried one of them years ago and it was working great, but the engine collapsed ’cause the in car was used seeds oil and not anymore the normal mineral oil. But it worked, and I can’t understand why all these companies are so far from a new clean and natural energy. They have only business in their minds!

  3. Tim, I agree with you, but it is for that very reason that many biofuel companies are exploring feedstocks that can be grown on marginal land (land that would not otherwise be suitable for food use). They are also developing the plant genomics so that the yields can be significantly greater, therefore requiring less total land use. Organizations like Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels have developed certification criterion that consider these land use & biodiversity impacts. Check it out if you haven’t.

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