Euro Environmental Organizations Warn on Biofuels
Peugeot Applies New 2.2-Liter 4-Cylinder Dual-Turbo Diesel to the 407

Update on Major Well-to-Wheels Fuels and Powertrains Study

A summary of liquid and gaseous fuels, not including hydrogen. Alternative-fuel pathways show WTW GHG improvements over gasoline and diesel, but not WTW energy-efficiency improvements. Click to enlarge.

The European Council for Automotive Research and Development (EUCAR); Oil Companies’s European Organization for Environment, Health and Safety (CONCAWE); and the Joint Research Center of the European Commission (JRC) have completed a joint evaluation of the Well-to-Wheels (WTW) energy use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for a wide range of potential future fuels and powertrains options.

The trio published an earlier version in December 2003. The second version, released in May 2006, includes a number of new and updated pathways as well as revised cost calculations and availability estimates.

Among the changes or new factors in the study are: a reduced fuel penalty for diesel particulate filters (2.5% down from 4%); optimized hybrid performance; revised and new pathways for ethanol production; Coal-to-Liquids (CTL) and carbon capture and sequestration (CCS).

Among the findings or conclusions are:

Engines. Continued developments in engine and vehicle technologies will reduce energy use and GHG emissions. Spark ignition engines have more potential for improvement than diesel, and hybridization can provide further GHG and energy use benefits.

Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) engines are currently slightly less efficient than gasoline engines, but in the future the improvements on spark ignition engines will bring CNG close to diesel efficiency. Hybridization is particularly favorable for CNG. Today the WTW GHG emissions for CNG lie between gasoline and diesel, approaching diesel in the best case.

The origin of the natural gas and the length of the supply pathway are critical to the overall WTW energy use and GHG emissions.

Biofuels. Conventional production of ethanol as practiced in Europe gives modest fossil energy/GHG savings compared with gasoline. Existing European pathways can be improved by use of co-generation and/or use of byproducts for heat. Advanced processes (from wood or straw) can give much higher savings. Using straw as fuel would yields the best GHG balance. Cellulosic ethanol is very promising (although sugar cane as a feedstock uses very little fossil energy).

Biodiesel saves fossil energy and GHG compared to conventional diesel. Sunflower is more favorable than rape as a feedstock.

Synthetics. Fischer-Tropsch (FT) diesel synthesis requires more energy than conventional diesel refining from crude oil. Gas-to-liquids (GTL) is nearly GHG neutral compared to conventional diesel; Coal-to-Liquids (CTL) produces considerably more GHG. The use of biomass-to-liquids (BTL processes) involves very little fossil energy and therefore produces few GHG emissions because the synthesis processes are fuelled by the biomass itself.

DME can be produced from natural gas or biomass at lower energy use and GHG emissions than FT diesel.

Hydrogen pathways.

Hydrogen. If hydrogen is produced from natural gas, GHG emissions savings are only achieved with fuel cell vehicles—not when burning hydrogen in an engine. Direct use of natural gas as a fuel is more energy/GHG efficient in engines than using hydrogen produced from natural gas.

Liquefied hydrogen is less energy-efficient than compressed hydrogen.

CCS. Carbon capture and storage requires some additional energy (mainly for CO2 compression), and is most attractive for processes that use large amounts of high-carbon energy such as CTL or processes that decarbonize fuels to produce hydrogen.

The researchers concluded that a shift to renewable/low fossil carbon routes may offer a significant GHG reduction potential but generally requires more energy. They also note that applying renewable energies directly to transport may not maximize the GHG reduction potential of those renewable energies—more might be gained by direct application to electricity rather than to road fuels.


  • Well-to-Wheels analysis of future automotive fuels and powertrains in the European context: Overview of results

  • Well-to-Wheels Study documents


An Engineer

CTL numbers seem high and at odds with what is claimed just accross the page - While the GHG emissions from production and upstream processes of the GTL system are higher compared to the refinery-based system, the advantages in the use phase, at a minimum, compensate for the disadvantages in those phases.

Total GHG emissions of the GTL system are between 12% less and 11% more than the refinery system, based on varying assumptions and data. The majority of the scenarios suggest an at least neutral if not positive GHG performance (i.e. reduced emissions) for the GTL is safe to conclude that the two technologies are at least equivalent in their GHG contributions. see

Of course, we know Big Oil (aka Oil Companies’s European Organization for Environment, Health and Safety [CONCAWE]) is perfectly honest and would never try to mislead us, or just try to justify their ourageous profits.

Bottom line: Can we trust ANY of these numbers?

An Engineer

OK, my bad: CTL is not the same as GTL. This study actually confirms that GTL ("Syn-diesel ex NG") has similar GHG emissions as conventional diesel.

Apologies to BO and humble pie is in order then.


Another study... Financed with taxpayers funds.
Results?? Some "very promising applications", which could be come to reality within 13 years. In the meantime oil collapses to 40$ and nobody gets one cent for research anymore.


full battery electric powertrains are not included at all ?? WTF ?
I mean, something like AC Propulsion tZero or Bollore-Batscap Bluecar obviously beats every Prius in well-to-wheels efficiency ( and looks, and performance ) by far even with the dirtiest coal-derived electricity available, not to mention solar-charged batteries...
Now if only those lithium-ion batteries and supercaps would be a bit cheaper.


yeah i was kinda but not surprised that EV's were not included.... bleh damn politics

shaun mann

yeah, you could claim that they ignored BEVs because of cost or availability issues, but surely the same and more would apply to fuel cell vehicles which are mentioned in the report.

hampden wireless


Oil is not going down to $40 again. Not unless we reverse split the dollar in 10 years 10-1. Oil may get down to $50 though even that I doubt. In the 70's the shortage was created, there was plenty of oil to go around if it was pumped. Today we are pulling oil from the ground as fast as possible and the price is still not dropping. China and India will grow thier use far more then we can cut ours. More sources of easy to get at oil will run out.

I think oil will remain above $60 if there is no major storm or terror disruption. If either happens we may test $80 for a bit. Gas in the USA will remain between $3-$4 till winter when it may drop to $2.75 if NOTHING at all goes wrong.


One thing is for sure: Big Oil (OPEC, oil companies, etc) definitely won't let the price of oil get to the threshold point of really pushing everyone into "conservation" mode. At this point though they are seeing that the new low price for gasoline has just been raised and we are never going to see gas prices less than $2.50/gallon again (national average). This is of course just an opinion.


they ignored BEVs because of cost or availability issues
Counting all the RAVs, REVAs, all sorts of conversions all over the world, hey even e-bikes and e-scooters etc etc, i would bet that there are more BEV's on the roads that any of the "futuristic" alternatives in the report, especially anything hydrogen-based
thats just pure bias and misreporting

Sunny Tai

I guess BEV's don't sound sexy to the public anymore...(sigh)


BEV omission kind of urked me. Lets write them some complaining emails folks!

BEVs are not included by design because you can easily bypass all the big oil/big agro infrustructure like biofuel rafineries etc..

Do you realy think that politicans are going to kill one of the biggest industries, the petrol car and connected infrustructure? Don't be naive..

hampden wireless

This report is so detailed and scientific, but the exclusion of BEVs makes me doubt all of it. How is a fuel cell car either more available or lower priced? They further talk about many other types of cars not available such as diesel and ng hybrids. Electrics as we all know have been made and sold already.

The only way to the electric car is going to be THROUGH plug in full hybrids such as ones made from the Prius. Otherwise I dont expect to see electrics in the US in any real volume. Basically Toyota is the only serious player here.


A few people will buy BEVs - too expensive, too little range, inconvenience of recharging. Limitations haven't been over come and BEVs have been available for 110 yeats! Toyota could sell only a few electric RAVs, and a half million Priuses. Much more promising is Plug-In Hybrid with CNG ICE.

Sunny Tai

The idea is to have the PHEV's as the stepping stone to pure BEV's. The developement of PHEV's will greatly advance our battery technology, making pure BEV's inevitable.

Ed Danzer

The original Well to Wheels study done in the US did include electric vehicles. Because of the low efficiency of batteries for storage, transmission losses, and coal fired electricity, they generate the most pollution.

Plug In America

Allow me to correct some skewed history about BEVs. Toyota sold every EV they made available. What they thought was a 2-year supply sold out in 8 months. The rest of the car companies only leased them, but same result -- every car was leased (despite many hurdles put in the way of customers), and GM had a secret waiting list of thousands more people who wanted them. See the new documentary opening later this month -- Who Killed the Electric Car. Check out the trailer at


The ev became the hybrid thats all. Much less depenadant on the battery side of things and much easyer to sell to the consumer. Also far more idiot proof.

New idiot proof batteries are out now but id expect full ev cars to not come mainstream for anouther 5-7 years as the car makers realy want 2-3 more generations of battery to come before they go full bore.

Nick G

"The original Well to Wheels study done in the US did include electric vehicles. Because of the low efficiency of batteries for storage, transmission losses, and coal fired electricity, they generate the most pollution."

This makes no sense. Li-ion batteries, the clear favorite, are 90% efficient. Do you have a link?

gpescwrf nkvw

xkprvycsw fwecdpqb vbpyezx xdhzqumov diygx tzfjlevpy ultb

gm volt

Li- ion batteries using lithium cobalt oxide are flammable (the oxide provides oxygen for a chemical reaction), but the newer LiFePO4 batteries by Valence Technology are not. They are somewhat heavier; we can deal with this, I think. And if we are willing to start small, we can begin with a trunk- full of lead- acid electric bicycle batteries for 15 miles of electric range and upgrade as the price comes down. (Why a trunk- full? Because batteries are just dead weight on long trips, and we really want to be...

The comments to this entry are closed.