|VW’s Powertrain and Fuel Roadmap. Click to enlarge.|
A key element in Volkswagen’s roadmap for future fuels and powertrains is the use of second-generation biofuels.
Second-generation biofuels can be produced from various kinds of agricultural residue such as corn stover as well as from the whole grains or seeds that serve as the feedstock for first-generation fuels. Examples of second-generation biofuels are Biomass-to-Liquid (BTL) synthetics or cellulosic ethanol.
The company’s Chairman is now calling on politicians to develop a tax model that gives second-generation biofuels preference, and provides a secure framework for investing in the development and market launch of these new fuels.
The present assessment regarding the sustainability of first and second-generation biofuels is entirely unsatisfactory, both in economic and environmental terms. One biofuel is not the same as another: some first-generation biofuels can best be described as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing”. Some of them have a worse CO2 balance than conventional gasoline fuels, but nevertheless still bear the name of “biofuel”.
First-generation biofuels receive tax incentives from scarce budget resources and consequently constitute a bad investment. That cannot be considered sustainable in either the ecological or the economic sense of the word.—Dr. Bernd Pischetsrieder, Chairman of the Board of Management of Volkswagen
Characterizing second-generation biofuels as being to a large extent CO2-neutral and non-competitive with food production, Pischetsrieder noted that the fuels are easy to blend with other fuels and thus can reduce CO2 levels in the short term.
The relatively high cost of production means that second-generation biofuels cannot yet be produced economically on a large scale. Production costs alone for the cellulose ethanol process are currently higher than the costs for both petroleum-based gasoline and conventional bioethanol, VW notes.
Pischetsrieder also called for further sustainability criteria, oriented, for example, to factors such as the use of fertilizers and pesticides, the protection of rainforests, social standards, employment potential and security of supply, to be included in fuel taxation.
Excessive subsidization and the misallocation of politico-economic resources must be avoided.—Bernd Pischetsrieder
Volkswagen has developed a tax model catering for CO2 efficiency as the primary criterion as well as the other sustainability criteria. Volkswagen believes that such a system could encourage tax harmonization in Europe.
The German government is planning a lower tax rate on BTL and cellulosic ethanol until 2015, a move welcomed by Volkswagen.
However, we doubt this is sufficient for the long-term planning security needed for major investment.—Dr. Jürgen Leohold, Head of Group Research at Volkswagen
|The CHOREN process. Click to enlarge.|
Volkswagen works closely with other automakers, bio-tech companies and petroleum corporations in developing fuels. Volkswagen has developed the fully synthetic SunFuel diesel fuel together with CHOREN Industries GmbH and other partners. (Earlier post.)
By using biomass, the CO2 cycle can be almost completely closed and greenhouse gases cut by approximately. 90 percent. With regard to gasoline fuels, Volkswagen is cooperating with partners such as the Canadian Iogen Corporation, whose process for producing cellulosic ethanol offers a similarly high CO2 reduction potential.
VW also notes that the development of new synthetic fuels supports the development of new combustion systems that provide outstanding emissions reductions combined with higher efficiency.
|Emissions results with different fuels used in the CCS research engine. Click to enlarge.|
In its work with the next-generation Combined Combustion System (CCS)—a partial homogeneous compression combustion process—Volkswagen highlights the need for high- and constant-quality fuels such as BtL or GtL derivatives with a kerosene-like boiling range for more precise ignition control to optimize emissions reduction and engine efficiency.