Google Tests Biofuel Car

by | Oct 26, 2012

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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