Bioethanol as effective as electricity to reduce GHG emissions

A recent IFPEN study concludes that a The E-85 super ethanol-powered plug-in hybrid engine is at least as efficient as the electric vehicle in reducing greenhouse gases.

Superethanol, known as E-85, is composed of 75% bioethanol and 25% fossil-based gasoline. According to Coletivo Bioetanol, E-85 superethanol reached almost 7% of the gasoline market in July 2022, compared to 4% in 2022. It is already available at 34% of gas stations. At the request of SNPAA (National Union of Agricultural Alcohol Producers), AIBS (Interprofessional Sugar Beet Association) and Intercereals, IFPEN (French Institute for Renewable Energy) produced a study and comparison of GHG emissions in life cycle analysis for 3 types of compact vehicles (category C), fossil gasoline powered thermal vehicles, plug-in hybrids with super ethanol and 100% electric cars. This comparison is performed on new cars in France in 2022 with over 150,000 km and on vehicles sold in 2040 for use over 250,000 km.

Of course the performance of hybrid vehicles is identical to that of electric cars, either in 2022 or for projections until 2040. In fact, 100% fossil fuel combustion cars emit 26 tons of COtwoeq against 13 tons of COtwoeq for hybrids and electrics. The study authors specify that the life cycle analysis is based on a standardized methodology (ISO 140040 and 14044) on which there is consensus for determining environmental impacts.

Note that the numbers in bold are the results on the French scale and those in parentheses are the results on the EU scale. The better results at the French scale are justified by a more carbon-free electricity industry than at the European scale.

100% electric vehicle batteries are expensive for the environment

In detail, this life cycle analysis (LCA) takes into account vehicle manufacturing costs (bodywork, tires, etc.), the battery ones (need for nickel, lithium…) and net GHG emissions. What’s interesting to note is that while car manufacturing costs are slightly higher for hybrid and electric cars, the latter are actually obviously more virtuous in terms of emissions (electric car in mind); Nonetheless, the electric car loses a lot of points when it comes to the resources needed to produce its batteries.

For the 2040 scenario, the thermal car does not gain performance in terms of emissions, while the study authors estimate the emissions reduced to 9 tons of COtwoeq for hybrids and electrics. This performance gain can be explained by improvements in vehicle weight and drag resistance, for example (better air penetration). With regard to hybrid vehicles, the projection in 2040 is based on a fuel that contains 75% bioethanol, 12.5% ​​synthetic renewable gasoline and only 12.5% ​​fossil gasoline (against 25% today).

Another positive point for the hybrid vehicle highlighted by the study: practicality. In fact, the hybrid makes it possible to drive when charging stations are busy or not available nearby. On the other hand, its battery is smaller, consumes less mineral resources produced outside the European Union and energy for its manufacture. Finally, when purchased for families and public budgets, the hybrid vehicle remains cheaper.

As European negotiations begin on CO2 rulestwo new cars by 2035, the sector asks European authorities to respect the commitment to produce a method of evaluating GHG emissions in LCA for light vehicles. Furthermore, based on this study, it also requires openings for carbon neutral fuels and plug-in hybrids to be effectively enforced.

With regard to bioethanol production, the study estimates that, by going from 12 million hectoliters to 18 Mhl of bioethanol, it would be possible to run 17% of the light vehicle fleet (that is, 5.3 million flex-hybrid vehicles). E85) monopolizing only 1% of the UAA in France.

In conclusion, Coletivo Bioethanol insists that plug-in hybrid vehicles powered by bioethanol are an effective solution to reduce the impact of vehicles on the climate and meet certain needs of drivers.

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