Ethanol economy is already here, struggling to survive in negative biofuel production margin environment. A new market study Global Biofuel Production Forecast 2015-2020 identifies the drop-in infrastructure in place as one of the critical components for ethanol market to happen. The drop-in infrastructure for low ethanol blends is already in place. Blends of E10 are becoming common in about two dozens of countries around the world, with U.S. leading the pack. Almost all retail gasoline sold in U.S in 2011 was blended with 10% of ethanol. A recent US Environmental Protection Agency decision to start the registration process for E15, a gasoline blend containing 15% ethanol, is the next important milestone for ethanol industry.
The missing element that can drastically boost the ethanol market is a car engine optimized for high ethanol blends. Technically it’s hardly a novelty. The Ford Model T, produced from 1908 through 1927, was the first commercial vehicle capable of running on pure ethanol. The Ford Model T was fitted with a carburetor with adjustable jetting, allowing use of gasoline or ethanol, or a combination of both. A couple of years ago Ricardo Inc., a large auto engines manufacturer, had unsuccessfully tried to launch the so-called Ethanol Boost Direct Injection engine, or EBDI, customized to make the most out of ethanol’s properties, probably too early for the market.
What we need now is not another small fix for existing gasoline engines. We need badly a built from scratch new car engine optimized for maximal efficiency at the highest possible ethanol content. We need a new concept of car/engine combination optimized for high ethanol blends which is capable to compete on par with economics of gasoline car in terms of $/mile. That would be a real game changer.