Do we still need bio-fuel if we rely on electromobility?

Many thanks to Berhard Ahlers for this exciting article, which shows the two most important alternatives for an energy transition in Fuel market examined.

The energy transition and renewable energy have become an integral part of our worldview. The share of renewable electricity generation exceeded the 20 percent mark last year and is being expanded further.

Electromobility enjoys an unprecedented public presence in this country. Billions of federal funds were made available for research, development, construction and market launch. Electromobility is environmentally friendly, keeps our cities clean and will lead us into a new era of drive technology. If we believe in advertising, the change from an environmentally harmful internal combustion engine to an environmentally friendly electric motor is imminent.

Have we ever questioned these theses? Is the electric car really that environmentally friendly today? Are oil imports or our dependence on them reduced? If we look at the facts, we quickly come to a completely different picture.

Photo electromobility

Oil price has increased tenfold in 15 years

By 2020, one million electric cars and 150.000 charging stations, which will cost taxpayers another 2 billion, should enrich the streetscape. 53 million vehicles that burn more energy (700 TWh) than all German power plants combined (617 TWh) are currently registered in Germany.

Even if the targets set for 1 million electric cars by 2020 and 5 million in 2030 should be achieved, 50 million vehicles that rely on fossil fuels still remain on German roads. Coal-fired power plants still generate the most electricity, others are under construction or will be connected to the grid at short notice. The proportion of CO2 in the electricity mix has risen to a ten-year high. A reduction in CO2 emissions for the environment and a reduction in oil dependency will still be needed for decades despite e-mobility.

The crude oil price journey is very uncertain, but certainly upwards. Over the past 15 years the oil price increased tenfold. The huge energy hunger in China and India and the skyrocketing energy consumption of the major oil producing countries make an oil price of US $ 200 and more per barrel more than likely. In addition, Germany's oil supply is anything but secure. Unlike gas and electricity, the crude oil and fuel market is not controlled by German companies, but only by foreign companies.

Of all the allegations that biofuels have been blamed for years, whether as food price drivers, as Cause of hunger in the world, as Rainforest destroyeror as an engine killer, has not come true to this day. How can an enlightened society complain of global hunger while throwing away over 2,3 billion tons of food (1), a lot more than five times to satisfy the hunger of 850 million people. How can we pillory the deforestation of rainforests and at the same time stock up on teak furniture in the hardware store? With the low food prices, we forget that we pay for the food twice: once at the cash register, a second time with our taxes. Every year, OECD countries send over 180 billion US dollars to our farmers to ensure their survival. The EU-27 alone has to raise 80 billion a year to secure "cheap food". And how many engines have been knocked out by E10 in the past 2 ½ years? No one!

It is time to not only focus on an era "after 2050", but we have to think about how we can make our immediate future of mobility more environmentally friendly.

Biofuels can and must play an important role. Biofuel processes have long been available (2), which are not only cheaper and more environmentally friendly than fossil fuels, but also have a positive impact on food production. A fraction of the money we spend today on mobility after 2050 would be enough to secure an affordable and environmentally friendly fuel supply, including the infrastructure. We only have to let go of the influence of oil companies on politics and their populist “anti-biofuel campaign”.

(1) FAO, Feb. 2013
(2) 3rd generation biofuel

In another article Bernhard Ahlers goes into the history of Bioethanol in Germany .

5 comments on “Do we still need bio fuel if we rely on electromobility?”

  1. Jörg Dürre

    Unfortunately, biofuels are simply inefficient. The energy harvest via the biomass detour allows only low yields. Photosynthesis can only convert 1% of sunlight into biomass - but an ordinary photovoltaic panel can turn 16% directly into electricity. With conversion losses, science assumes 40 times the mileage for electromobility from solar power of the same area.

    I can only imagine a limited future of biofuels for extending the range in hybrid vehicles. Biomass is also a good energy store and can be used as a reserve for stationary electricity generation; advantageous especially from residues or by-products.

  2. Dear Mr. Drought,
    Your comment of 1% usage may be correct, but I have not examined it.
    With your presentation that ranges with photovoltaic electricity is 40 times vs biofuel, I can refute it without arithmetic skills and without scientific studies. We convert approximately 7.000 liters of biofuel (energy content: 151.200 MJ, or 65.667.000 MWh) from agricultural waste products that are generated per hectare in food production, or a quantity that is sufficient for vehicles with "internal combustion engines" for over 100.000 km . And I would also like to add that 3rd generation biofuels do not take up any space at all.
    Your commitment to photovoltaics in all honor, but unfortunately solar systems do not grow on trees or in the ground. Wafers, base plates of the systems, first have to be made from quartz sand. The quartz sand is melted into "monocrystalline silicon" using electrical energy. Up to 1 kWh of electricity are used to produce a wafer with 10.000kW of spades. The average power generation of the photovoltaic systems installed in Germany has been approximately 920 full load hours in the past few years. Called; In the first 10 years, photovoltaic systems generate the amount of electricity that was used for the production.

  3. Many thanks to Mr. Dürre and Mr. Ahlers for the fact-oriented discussion on the topic Area efficiency of photovoltaics vs bioenergy. Of course, it is exciting when two representatives step into the ring, who are willing to discuss constructively and not just hack at the other technology. You both know well enough about discussions of this kind.

    From my perspective, it doesn't make sense to us that we play one technology against the other. Both have advantages and both have their weaknesses, as you explained very nicely. It would be more fruitful if the experts in the PV and bioenergy industry look together for synergies instead of supporting a "divide and conquer mentality", which ultimately only keeps us on the drip of finite fossil fuels. Above all in the mobility area there is enough space for bio fuel and electromobility (PV, wind).

  4. Bernhard Ahlers

    Dear Mr. Kirchner,
    I am passionate about e-mobility as I am about biofuels. My objections relate to the fact that the topic of e-cars is glorified comprehensively, that taxpayers' money has already cost 4 billion euros to date and that another 2015 billion have to be borne by citizens for a handful of cars by 3. Facts undoubtedly prove that the much praised “CO2 neutrality” is still a few decades away.
    "A dog repeatedly retrieves the stick, puts it in front of the thrower's feet and only fixes the stick and never the thrower" quote from a well-known Osnabrück native.
    When we talk about environmental protection and that we all want it, there is no doubt that we have to concentrate much more on “today” and invest less prophetically in the future of the 2030s and 2040s.

  5. Only recently has the EU Environment Committee decided on the others Dealing with biofuels Voted. Above all, the results cannot really please the manufacturers of the 1st generation of biofuels, but this hard path is probably inevitable for the badly tarnished image of liquid bioenergy. When we speak of sustainability in the case of biofuels, we are primarily talking about ecological sustainability rather than the social and economic dimension of the sustainability triad. As a bioenergy enthusiast, I can accept that and after all, biofuel opens a door for ecological development of the entire biomass industry.

    I agree with you that we need more short-term oil withdrawal measures without losing sight of the long-term development of a renewable energy supply in the mobility sector. But looking 30 years into the future is probably very difficult even for the most experienced!

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