The Role of Biofuel in Low-Carbon Transport

Biofuels offer a solution to climate change that shouldn’t go ignored. In fact, the amount of biofuel used in transport has to increase by a factor of seven in order to prevent climate catastrophe, a recent report on 1.5C warming by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states. The report also places biofuels in the same league of importance as electric vehicles when it comes to replacing unsustainable fossil fuels by 2050.

Biofuels are increasingly being used to power vehicles around the world

Electric cars: benefits and limitations

A typical gas-powered car emits roughly one pound of carbon dioxide per mile traveled. On the other hand, electric cars release zero tailpipe emissions. However, light-duty passenger vehicles represent only 50% of the energy demand in the transportation sector worldwide.

Heavy road vehicles and air, sea, and rail transport make up the rest — electrification of this remaining 50% would be an expensive task. Additionally, demand for transport is expected to increase in the future. Vehicles will need to use even less energy by 2050 to ensure the global transport sector’s total energy demand rises no higher than current levels (100 exajoules).

Biofuel: a necessary solution

Several sustainable, carbon-neutral synthetic fuels are currently in developmental and demonstration stages. For example, synfuels can be produced from carbon dioxide and water via low-carbon electricity. However, this also requires cheap and low-carbon power systems (similar to the ones already running in Quebec and Iceland).

Biodiesel

In 2013, Audi was the first automaker to establish an electrofuel plant — it cost €20M and produces 3.2 MW of synthetic methane from 6 MW of electricity. Additionally, synthetic biofuels can be made from woody residues and crop wastes, which has a lighter environmental footprint than biofuels made from agricultural crops.

Examples of eco-friendly cars

While biofuels continue to be developed, there are plenty of electric cars on the market right now — all of which can help us reduce our individual carbon footprints. For example, the Hyundai Kona Electric is an impressive electric car. This vehicle offers sleek exterior styling, plenty of modern tech features, and has an impressive range of 258 miles in between charges. The price starts at $36,950. Alternatively, the Nissan LEAF is another eco-friendly model priced from $29,990. It’s powered by an 80kW electric motor and runs for 100 miles per charge.

Electric cars and synthetic biofuels are both valuable technological changes. Focusing on developing both of these sustainable options should take utmost priority in the fight against climate change.