Sugar, Bringing in the New Age of Batteries?

Cutting back on your sugar intake? Than consider using it to create a battery. Not really but doesn’t it sound cool? A Virgina Tech research team did just this and has developed a battery that runs on sugar. The research team believes it has an energy density unmatched by any on the market and could lead to the replacement of conventional batteries with ones that are cheaper, refillable and biodegradable.

The findings from Y.H. Percival Zhang, an associate professor of biological systems engineering in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Engineering, were published yesterday in the journal Nature Communications.

sugar batteryWhile other sugar batteries have been developed, Zhang said his has an energy density an order of magnitude higher than others, allowing it to run longer before needing to be refueled. In as soon as three years, his new battery could be running a myriad of electronic gadgets.

“Sugar is a perfect energy storage compound in nature,” Zhang said. “So it’s only logical that we try to harness this natural power in an environmentally friendly way to produce a battery.”

This is one of Zhang’s recent successes that utilize a series of enzymes mixed together in combinations not found in nature. He has published articles on creating edible starch from non-food plants and developed a new way to extract hydrogen in an economical and environmentally friendly way that can be used to power vehicles.

In this newest development, Zhang and his colleagues constructed a non-natural synthetic enzymatic pathway that strip all charge potentials from the sugar to generate electricity in an enzymatic fuel cell. Then, low-cost biocatalyst enzymes are used as catalyst instead of costly platinum, which is typically used in conventional batteries.

Like all fuel cells, the sugar battery combines fuel — in this case, maltodextrin, a polysaccharide made from partial hydrolysis of starch — with air to generate electricity and water as the main byproducts.

Zang explained, “We are releasing all electron charges stored in the sugar solution slowly step-by-step by using an enzyme cascade.”

Different from hydrogen fuel cells and direct methanol fuel cells, the fuel sugar solution is neither explosive nor flammable and has a higher energy storage density. The enzymes and fuels used to build the device are also biodegradable.

MIT Finds New Way to Get More Out of Solar

MITsolar1Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have found a new way to get more out of harvesting solar energy. This article from the school says they’re using the sun to heat a high-temperature material whose infrared radiation would then be collected by a conventional photovoltaic cell.

In this case, adding the extra step improves performance, because it makes it possible to take advantage of wavelengths of light that ordinarily go to waste. The process is described in a paper published this week in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, written by graduate student Andrej Lenert, associate professor of mechanical engineering Evelyn Wang, physics professor Marin Soljačić, principal research scientist Ivan Celanović, and three others.

A conventional silicon-based solar cell “doesn’t take advantage of all the photons,” Wang explains. That’s because converting the energy of a photon into electricity requires that the photon’s energy level match that of a characteristic of the photovoltaic (PV) material called a bandgap. Silicon’s bandgap responds to many wavelengths of light, but misses many others.

To address that limitation, the team inserted a two-layer absorber-emitter device — made of novel materials including carbon nanotubes and photonic crystals — between the sunlight and the PV cell. This intermediate material collects energy from a broad spectrum of sunlight, heating up in the process. When it heats up, as with a piece of iron that glows red hot, it emits light of a particular wavelength, which in this case is tuned to match the bandgap of the PV cell mounted nearby…

The design of the two-layer absorber-emitter material is key to this improvement. Its outer layer, facing the sunlight, is an array of multiwalled carbon nanotubes, which very efficiently absorbs the light’s energy and turns it to heat. This layer is bonded tightly to a layer of a photonic crystal, which is precisely engineered so that when it is heated by the attached layer of nanotubes, it “glows” with light whose peak intensity is mostly above the bandgap of the adjacent PV, ensuring that most of the energy collected by the absorber is then turned into electricity.

The researchers go on to say this technique will make it easier to store solar energy.

Wisconsin Resarchers Find Better Biofuels Chemical

Dumesic-Luterbacher1Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have found a way to get more ethanol out of sugars used in the refining process. This university article says they’re using a plant-derived chemical, gamma valerolactone, or GVL.

“With the sugar platform, you have possibilities,” says Jeremy Luterbacher, a postdoctoral researcher and the paper’s lead author. “You’ve taken fewer forks down the conversion road, which leaves you with more end destinations, such as cellulosic ethanol and drop-in biofuels.”

Funded by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC), the research team has published its findings in the Jan. 17, 2014 issue of the journal Science, explaining how they use gamma valerolactone, or GVL, to deconstruct plants and produce sugars that can be chemically or biologically upgraded into biofuels. With support from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF), the team will begin scaling up the process later this year.

Because GVL is created from the plant material, it’s both renewable and more affordable than conversion methods requiring expensive chemicals or enzymes. The process also converts 85 to 95 percent of the starting material to sugars that can be fed to yeast for fermentation into ethanol, or chemically upgraded furans to create drop-in biofuels.

The researchers are adding liquid carbon dioxide to the mix and could reduce the cost to produce ethanol by 10 percent.

Southern Illinois Expands Ethanol Research Team

Arun Athmanathan1A research center dedicated to advancing the study and development of ethanol is expanding its research staff. This news release from the National Corn-to-Ethanol Research Center (NCERC) at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville (SIUE) has added Dr. Arun Athmanathan, a postdoctoral fellow specializing in cellulosic and advanced biofuels research.

“Following a national search that generated candidates from premier research institutions across the country, we are pleased to welcome Dr. Athmanathan to the team,” NCERC Director John Caupert said. “Arun’s expertise in cellulosic biofuels research and his studies under biofuels pioneers like Nathan Mosier, Mike Ladisch and Nancy Ho make him an excellent complement to our research division.”

Arun has a broad range of experiences in the characterization and fermentation of many cellulosic and advanced feedstocks, including corn stover and sweet sorghum bagasse, likely feedstocks that the NCERC research team will explore. He received his MS and PhD in Agricultural and Biological Engineering from Purdue University’s acclaimed agriculture school.

The Illinois Corn Marketing Board and SIUE partnered to provide seed funding for NCERC’s postdoctoral fellowship program following the Center’s recent breakthroughs in corn kernel fiber conversion and feedstock characterization. Arun and an additional postdoctoral fellow will work under Research Director Dr. Sabrina Trupia to extend upon the Center’s existing research and identify new areas of study.

“The NCERC continues to be an incredible asset to public and private researchers and the biofuels industry as a whole,” ICMB Chairman and Okawville farmer Larry Hasheider said. “From accelerating the commercialization of new technologies to increasing production efficiency and developing value-added coproducts, the NCERC has defined the cutting edge of the biofuels research for more than a decade. We believe this investment will yield tremendous dividends for the biofuels and agriculture industries through continued research breakthroughs.”

The NCERC also announced the expansion of its research capabilities through a new faculty fellowship program. University faculty can apply for course-buyouts in order to conduct collaborative research with the Center.

New Study: Corn Ethanol Reduces GHG Emissions

According to a new study, that compared the greenhouse gas emission reductions of corn ethanol and those of crude oil production and fracking, corn ethanol’s carbon intensity is declining while the carbon intensity of petroleum is increasing. The study was conducted by Life Cycle Associates and found that the carbon impacts associated with Canadian_tar_sandscrude oil production continue to worsen as more marginal sources of fuel are introduced into the fuel supply.

According to the report, “As the average carbon intensity of petroleum is gradually increasing, the carbon intensity of corn ethanol is declining. Corn ethanol producers are motivated by economics to reduce the energy inputs and improve product yields.”

The study, commissioned by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), found that average corn ethanol reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 32 percent compared to average petroleum in 2012. This estimate includes prospective emissions from indirect land use change (ILUC) for corn ethanol. When compared to marginal petroleum sources like tight oil from fracking and oil sands, average corn ethanol reduces GHG emissions by 37-40 percent.

As more unconventional crude oil sources enter the U.S. oil supply, and as corn ethanol production processes become even more efficient, the carbon impacts of ethanol and crude oil will continue to diverge. The study predicts that by 2022, average corn ethanol reduces GHG emissions by 43-60 percent compared to petroleum.

“The majority of unconventional fuel sources emit significantly more GHG emissions than both biofuels and conventional fossil fuel sources,” according to the study. “The biggest future impacts on the U.S. oil slate are expected to come from oil sands and fracking production.” In the absence of biofuels, “…significant quantities of marginal oil would be fed into U.S. refineries, generating corresponding emissions penalties that would be further aggravated in the absence of renewable fuel alternatives.”

The study also reveals several fundamental flaws with the GHG analysis conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the expanded Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2) regulations. Continue reading

RINS Had No Impact on 2013 Gas Prices

gaspricesDespite all the “RINsanity” caused in early 2013 when gas prices spiked and the oil industry pointed fingers at volatile Renewable Identification Numbers, a report out today exonerates RINS from blame.

The detailed statistical analysis
conducted by Informa Economics and released today by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) finds that retail gasoline prices were “unaffected by the erratic surge in prices for Renewable Identification Number (RIN) credits in 2013.”

“Changes in prices of renewable identification numbers (RINs) did not cause changes in retail gasoline prices in 2013,” according to Informa’s report. “Retail gasoline prices were driven primarily by movements in crude oil prices and secondarily by changes in the spread between domestic and international crude oil prices and the level of vehicle miles driven in the U.S., which varies seasonally.”

Overall, gas prices in 2013 average less than the previous year, at $3.49 per gallon according to AAA. That is the lowest price since 2010. The highest one-day national average was $3.79 per gallon on February 27.

RFA president and CEO Bob Dinneen, Informa Senior VP Scott Richman and analyst Crystal Carpenter, and Geoff Cooper, RFA’s Vice President of Research and Analysis, held a press conference today to discuss the analysis. RINS report media call

Fast-Eating Enzymes Lunch on Cellulose

A microorganism first found in the Valley of Geysers on the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia in 1990 may be a key to more efficient cellulosic biofuel production. The microoorganism can digest cellulose almost twice as fast as the current leading component cellulase enzyme on the market according to researchers at the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

The researches have discovered if the enzyme continues to perform well in larger tests, it could help drive down the price of making lignocellulosic fuels, from ethanol to other biofuels that can be dropped into existing infrastructure. A paper reporting this finding, “Revealing Nature’s Cellulase Diversity: The Digestion Mechanism of Caldicellulosiruptor bescii CelA” appears in the journal Science.

The bacterium first found in heated freshwater pools, Caldicellulosiruptor bescii, secretes the cellulase, CelA, which has the complex arrangement of two catalytic domains Caldicellulosiruptor besciiseparated by linker peptides and cellulose binding modules.

NREL researchers put CelA to the test and found that it produced more sugars than the most abundant cellulase in the leading commercial mixtures, Cel7A, when acting on Avicel, which is an industry standard to test cellulose degradation. They found that CelA not only can digest cellulose in the more common surface removal, but that it also creates cavities in the material, which leads to greater synergy with more conventional cellulases, resulting in higher sugar release.

The bacteria that secrete the promising CelA thrive in temperatures of 75 to 90 degrees Celsius (167-194 degrees Farenheit). NREL Scientist Yannick Bomble, one of the paper’s authors, noted “Microorganisms and cellulases operating at such high temperatures have several biotechnological advantages.”

“CelA is the most efficient single cellulase we’ve ever studied – by a large margin,” Bomble continued. “It is an amazingly complex enzyme, combining two catalytic domains with three binding modules. The fact that it has two complementary catalytic domains working in concert most likely makes it such a good cellulose degrader.” Continue reading

Consumer Attitude About Renewable Energy Rebounds

According to a new consumer survey from Navigant Research, favorable attitudes toward a number of clean and renewable energy concepts, particularly solar energy, wind energy, hybrid vehicles and electric cars, have rebounded significantly from their 2012 levels.

The survey finds the average favorability rating for 10 concepts, which fall under the Solar and wind togethercategories of clean energy, clean transportation, smart grid, and building efficiency, also rose, to 51 percent, the highest level seen in Navigant Research’s annual survey since 2010.

“Between 2009 and 2012, there were steady declines in favorability for some clean energy concepts, particularly the most favorable concepts, such as solar energy, wind energy, and hybrid and electric vehicles,” said Clint Wheelock, managing director with Navigant Research. “This year saw statistically significant increases in favorability for seven of the 10 concepts, and a decline for only one – nuclear power.”

The white paper, “Energy and Environment Consumer Survey,” analyzes the survey responses as a basis for comparing consumer views of 10 energy and environment topics to one another. In addition to favorable and unfavorable opinions, the number of respondents unfamiliar with a concept is also considered in order to compare the level of consumer awareness within each topic.

The survey of 1,084 U.S. adults was conducted in the fall of 2013, and asked respondents to provide their level of favorability for the following key concepts: solar energy; wind energy; nuclear power; hybrid vehicles; electric cars; natural gas vehicles; biofuels; smart grid; smart meters and LEED certification.

According the Navigant Research, the similarly high levels of favorable views toward solar and wind energy indicate that consumers are generally supportive of the more established renewable energies that harness naturally occurring power sources. Since these two concepts have retained their most favored status year after year, Navigant Research asserts that consumers consider these renewable energies to be important pieces in the power generation portfolio of the future.

OSU Spinoff NuScale Goes Nuclear

Oregon State University (OSU) spinoff NuScale Power has been awarded up to $226 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The company is developing a new form of nuclear power and is a spinoff company based on the pioneering research of OSU professor Jose Reyes. Today Reyes has become one of the international leaders in the creation of small “modular” nuclear reactors.

According to NuScale, this technology holds enormous promise for developing nuclear power with small reactors that can minimize investment costs, improve safety, be grouped as needed for power demands and produce energy without greenhouse gas emissions. The technology also provides opportunities for OSU nuclear engineering students who are learning about these newest concepts in nuclear power.

nuscale-vertical“This is a wonderful reflection of the value that OSU faculty can bring to our global economy,” said Rick Spinrad, vice president for research at OSU. “The research conducted by Professor Reyes, colleagues and students at OSU has been a fundamental component of the innovation at NuScale.”

NuScale said it is bringing closer to reality a nuclear concept that could revolutionize nuclear energy. The Obama administration has cited nuclear power as one part of its blueprint to rebuild the American economy while helping to address important environmental issues.

“OSU has made a strong effort to build powerful partnerships between our research enterprise and the private sector,” said OSU President Edward J. Ray. “The DOE support for NuScale is a vote of confidence in the strategy of building these meaningful relationships, and they are only going to pick up speed with our newest initiative, the OSU Advantage.”

News of the NuScale grant award was welcomed by members of Oregon’s Congressional delegation. “Oregon State University deserves a lot of credit for helping to develop a promising new technology that the Energy Department clearly thinks holds a lot of potential,” said Sen. Ron Wyden, chairman of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. “Today’s award shows that investing in strong public universities leads to innovative technologies to address critical issues, like the need for low-carbon sources of energy, while creating private sector jobs.”

OSU officials say the development of new technologies such as those launched from NuScale could have significant implications for future energy supplies. “The nation’s investment in the research of small-scale nuclear devices is a significant step toward a diverse and secure energy portfolio,” said Sandra Woods, dean of the College of Engineering at OSU. “Collaborative research is actively continuing between engineers and scientists at Oregon State and NuScale, and we’re proud and grateful for the role Oregon State plays in assisting them in developing cleaner and safer ways to produce energy.

U.S. Solar Energy Industry Breaks Records

Solar Report Figure1.1_0GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) have released the “U.S. Solar Market Insight: 3rd Quarter 2013,” the definitive analysis of solar power markets in the U.S., with strategic state-specific data for 28 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

According to the report, the U.S. installed 930 megawatts (MW) of photovoltaics (PV) in Q3 2013 is up 20 percent over Q2 2013 and 35 percent over Q3 2012. This represents the second largest quarter in the history of the U.S. solar market and the largest quarter ever for residential PV installations. The report finds that even more importantly, 2013 is likely to be the first time in more than 15 years that the U.S. installs more solar capacity than world leader Germany, according to GTM Research forecasts.

“Without a doubt, 2013 will go down as a record-shattering year for the U.S. solar industry,” said Rhone Resch, SEIA president and CEO. “We’ve now joined Germany, China and Japan as worldwide leaders when it comes to the installation of new solar capacity. This unprecedented growth is helping to create thousands of American jobs, save money for U.S. consumers, and reduce pollution nationwide. When it comes to preparing for America’s future, clean, dependable and affordable solar energy has become the ‘Little Engine That Could,’ defying expectations and powering economic growth – and, frankly, we’re just scratching the surface of our industry’s enormous potential.”

Solar Report Figure2.1_4The report finds that the residential market continues its rapid growth. Through Q3, residential PV installations were up 45 percent year-over-year, driven largely by increasingly attractive economics and by fair net metering policies. The non-residential (commercial) market has seen the most difficulty this year with installations forecasted to stay flat over last year. The utility market continues its consistently strong installation numbers and is forecasted to exceed 1 gigawatt (GW) of installations in the fourth quarter, including Abengoa’s Solana, the world’s largest parabolic trough concentrating solar power (CSP) plant with a 6-hour thermal energy storage system. This will be the first time any individual market segment has hit that mark.

“Solar is the second-largest source of new electricity capacity in the U.S. this year, trailing only natural gas,” said Shayle Kann, vice president of research at GTM. “As solar continues its march toward ubiquity, the market will require continued innovation, efficiency improvement and regulatory clarity. But already the groundwork has been laid for a mainstream solar future.”

USDA, DOE Fund $8M for Bioenergy Feedstocks

The U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Energy (DOE) today announced $8 million in research grants to develop non-food feedstocks that can be used for bioenergy. USDA said the grants are part of a broader effort by the Obama administration to develop domestic renewable energy and advanced biofuels, providing a more secure future for America’s energy needs and enhancing rural economies.

USDA DOE Biomass Programs“Today’s investments are a critical piece of President Obama’s strategy to create a clean source of energy and advance the sustainable use of natural resources,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Innovative research plays a vital role in boosting rural economies and creating jobs in rural America, and the benefits this type of research may offer is another pressing reason we need a new Food, Farm and Jobs bill passed.”

Overall, the USDA and DOE projects are designed to improve biomass to be grown for biofuels including selected trees and grasses-by increasing their yield, quality and ability to adapt to extreme environments. Researchers will rely on the most advanced techniques of modern genomics to develop breeding and other strategies to improve the crops. The research will be conducted on switchgrass, poplar and pine, among other plants.

The potential benefits of this research range from decreasing oil imports to increasing options for American farmers. Because these non-food crops will be optimized to tolerate conditions such as drought and poor soils, they can be grown on marginal lands unsuitable for food crops, thereby avoiding competition with food production. Farmers will have the option to grow bioenergy crops in addition to other existing crop choices.

Fiscal Year 2013 awardees include:

USDA-NIFA-funded

  • University of Florida, Gainesville, Fla., $1,000,000
  • Oregon State University, Corvallis, Ore., $1,000,000

DOE-funded

  • Colorado State University, Ft. Collins, Colo., $1,385,763
  • University of Georgia, Athens, Ga., $1,314,235
  • University of Illinois, Urbana, Ill., $998,564
  • Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind., $863,576
  • University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, N.C., $1,543,490

Staggering Wind Turbines Produces More Energy

According to the University of Delaware’s Cristina Archer and her Atmosphere and Energy Research Group, staggering and spacing out turbines in an offshore wind farm can improve performance by as much as 33 percent. The findings, which appeared in Geophysical Research Letters, could help engineers plan improved offshore wind farms.

“Staggering every other row was amazingly efficient,” said Archer, associate professor of physical ocean science and engineering and geography in UD’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment.

Sund_mpazdzioraThe researchers used an existing offshore wind farm near Sweden as the basis for their study, comparing the existing tightly packed, grid-like layout to six alternative configurations. In some, they kept the turbines in neat rows but spaced them farther apart. In others, they shifted the alignment of every other row, similar to how rows of theatre seats are staggered to improve the views of people further back.

In computer-intensive simulations that each took weeks to run, the team took into account the eddies, or swirls of choppy air, that wind turbines create downwind as their blades spin — and how that air movement would impact surrounding turbines.

They found that the most efficient arrangement was a combination of two approaches. By both spacing the turbines farther apart and staggering the rows, the improved layout would decrease losses caused by eddies and improve overall performance by a third.

The optimal configuration had the rows oriented to face the prevailing wind direction, for example from the southwest in the summer along the U.S. East Coast. Most locations, however, have more than one dominant direction from where wind blows throughout the year. The optimal configuration for a season may not be optimal in another season, when the prevailing wind changes direction and intensity.

Considering these various factors could better inform where and how to configure future offshore wind farms, Archer explained. “We want to explore all these trade-offs systematically, one by one,” she said.

The study is part of Archer’s overall research focus on wind and applications for renewable energy production. Trained in both meteorology and engineering, she uses weather data and complex calculations to estimate the potential for wind as a power source.

Biodiesel Feedstock’s Proteins Mapped

CastorBeansResearchers in Europe and South America have mapped the protein of a biodiesel feedstock, castor beans, in hopes of reducing the poisons in the leftover pulp. This article from The Almagest says researchers from the University of Southern Denmark and hope to be able to get more out of the bean.

Countries like Brazil and India grow large quantities of the castor oil beans, which can be refined into bio-diesel. Unfortunately, the beans contain allergens and also the extremely potent poison ricin, and therefore the bean pulp after extraction of the oil cannot be used for animal feed. The animals might become sick or even die from eating castor pulp.

“Therefore we are interested in finding out if it in some way could be possible to eliminate the allergenic proteins and the ricin from the beans, so that the pulp can be used for animal feed”, explains professor Peter Roepstorff, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at University of Southern Denmark.

The first step towards this has now been taken. Roepstorff and a team of Danish/Brazilian colleagues have used proteomics to map 1875 castor bean proteins.

“Now we know where the proteins are, and we know when during bean development they are produced. Especially the protein ricin and the allergen 2S Albumin are interesting in this context. Unfortunately our research shows that it does not seem to be easy to get rid of them”, says Peter Roepstorff.

The researchers found that the allergens and the deadly ricin poison are low when the beans are young, but as the beans mature and produce desirable oil levels, the ricin and allergen levels increase. The goal is to figure out how to manipulate the proteins to get the high oil levels without all the poisons.

Offshore Wind Needs EUR123 Billion to Meet Goals

EWEA offshore wind financial reportAccording to new research, the offshore wind energy sector needs up to EUR123 billion in investment between now and 2020 if it is to meet its target of 40 GW of installed capacity. Equity and debt provides are willing to invest; however, they are holding back due to regulatory instability.

What’s blocking the investment is the uncertainty caused by changing regulatory frameworks, not least in the two largest markets, the UK and Germany, the independent survey of the financial community shows.

“By undermining investment stability, governments are putting green growth, jobs and a world-leading European industry at risk,” said CEO of the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), Thomas Becker, at the report launch in Frankfurt at EWEA OFFSHORE 2013. “Stable national frameworks and a binding EU renewable energy target for 2030 will be a green light to investors and ensure the industry continues to flourish.”

The report, ‘Where’s the money coming from? Financing offshore wind farms‘ comes from EWEA with research from Ernst and Young.

What Will We Drive in 2023?

According to a new study, “Tomorrow’s Vehicles: What Will We Drive in 2023?” released by the Fuels Institute, the growth of vehicles running on alternative fuels will accelerate over the next decade but diesel-fuel and gasoline-powered vehicles will continue to dominate the market.

Tomorrow's Vehicles What Will We Drive in 2023For light-duty vehicles (passenger vehicles and light trucks), gasoline-powered vehicles will continue to dominate the market, although overall market share could decline from 93 percent in 2012 to as low as 82 percent of vehicle inventories in 2023. Diesel-powered vehicles will potentially comprise nearly 7 percent of the market while flexible-fuel vehicles capable of using E85 could grow to more than 9 percent of the market.

Meanwhile, for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles (commercial vehicles like trucks and buses), diesel-powered vehicles will prevail, representing at least 94 percent of the vehicle fleet in 2023.

“On the surface, it may not seem that significant change is occurring, because gasoline and diesel fuel-powered vehicles will continue to dominate the vehicle fleet in 2023, but alternatives are gaining traction,” said John Eichberger, executive director of the Fuels Institute. “Consumers appear to be more open to alternatives than ever before and vehicle manufacturers are offering a wider variety.”

Given that there are more than 250 million vehicles on the road today, the report finds it will take years of strong sales of alternative fuel vehicles to reshape the country’s vehicle fleet. In addition, a variety of developments — including cost reductions for alternative-fuel vehicles, conveniently available refueling options, expanded vehicle range and overall consumer familiarity and confidence with new fueling options — will need to occur before alternative-fueled vehicles can capture significant market share.

“We need to ask — and answer — some tough questions so that the vehicles and fueling markets can develop together and convert consumers to new type of vehicles,” said Eichberger.

The report forecast the makeup of the vehicle fleet in 2023 based on two scenarios: a “base case” that incorporates current forecasts and an “aggressive case” that assumes more robust world economic conditions that further spurs demand and prices for petroleum products. In both projections, gasoline-powered vehicles will continue to dominate the LDV market but lose significant market share, dropping from 93.2 percent of LDVs on the road in 2012 to between 82.6 percent to 86.0 percent in 2023. This decline in market share is driven by a shift in the sale of new vehicles, with gasoline-powered vehicles’ share of sales falling from 83.4 percent in 2012 to between 67.6 percent to 78.9 percent in 2023, a potentially dramatic change in consumer purchasing behavior. Continue reading