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In the world of alternative power, not all fuels are created equal. This fact is true with ethanol, where the alcohol can be made using fairly inefficient processes, some of which involve corn, or using more advanced cellulosic methods which do not use a foodstock. Diesel too can come from either petroleum or from non-dino sources. You're probably aware that Audi has been assaulting various race tracks using its advanced diesel powered race cars, specifically its two-time Le Mans-winning R10 TDI, which has so far been running on what is known as gas-to-liquid (GTL) diesel fuel. With the 24 Hours of Le Mans just around the corner, Audi and Shell, the fuel provider for Audi's race team, have announced that the team will be blending a small amount of biomass-to-liquid (BTL) fuel into its secret mixture. Shell's BTL fuel is made from materials such as wood chips and will make its on-track debut on Sunday, June 1, as Audi's R10 TDI begins its official Le Mans testing.

[Source: Audi]

Press Release:

Audi R10 TDI uses Biofuel of the next generation for the first time

* World premiere at the 24 Hours of Le Mans
* New: Shell V-Power Diesel race fuel with GTL and BTL
* Synthetic diesel fuel reduces emission of CO2
* British ace Allan McNish bids for glory

Ingolstadt – World premiere in motorsport: At the 2008 Le Mans 24 Hours on 14/15 June, the three Audi R10 TDI prototypes entered by Audi Sport Team Joest will race for the first time with the next generation of Biofuel manufactured from Biowaste and promising a reduction in the emission of CO2 by almost 90 per cent when compared with traditional diesel. Britain's Allan McNish will race an Audi bidding for glory in a race he won 10 years ago.

Audi fields the 650-hp plus R10 TDI, which has already won the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans twice, in sportscar races since 2006. Shell V-Power Diesel race fuel produced by development partner Shell has been used since the very beginning. It's a particularly powerful and efficient synthetic fuel which is created from Natural Gas in a process called Gas To Liquids (GTL). Fuels with these components are already available at the pumps.

For the third appearance of the Audi R10 TDI at Le Mans, a small amount of Biofuel of the next generation is mixed for the first time with the previously well-proven GTL components: BTL (Biomass To Liquids), as it is officially called, is extracted from Biowaste that is unfit for use in foodstuffs, for example from waste wood. BTL promises a reduction in the amount of CO2 emission by almost 90 per cent compared to traditional diesel.

Although they are manufactured from different raw materials, the two alternative fuels BTL and GTL are practically Sulphur free and odourless. They combine quality and efficient combustion with reduced exhaust emissions.

"Audi voiced its support early for the use of next generation Biofuels at Le Mans," explains Michael Dick, Member of the Board of Management of AUDI AG with responsibility for Technical Development. "It underlines our philosophy that we view Le Mans as a tough test field for new technologies which will be available at a later date in production cars for our customers. The Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO) provides the opportunity to use alternative drive concepts and fuels, which we exploit to the full."

The V12 TDI known for its efficiency and fitted to the Audi R10 TDI has already been tested successfully with the new fuel on the dynamometer and during tests. The first public appearance follows this coming Sunday (1 June) at the official test day at Le Mans. It traditionally provides teams with the only opportunity to test on the 13.629-kilometre circuit of Le Mans before the race.

Practice is on Sunday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. All three cars of Audi Sport Team Joest and all nine drivers will be in action.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 6 Years Ago
      I wish a US make would enter a Diesel powered LMP-1 fed exclusively on true patriotic American "Coal to Liquid" (Fischer-Troppe) synthetic diesel fuel that would be heavily sponsored by your friendly "National Coal Council" ( http://nationalcoalcouncil.org/ scary website, almost looks like GTA IV WKTT radio) and the West Virginia tourism board.

      Now that, at least, would show the duplicity of those "alternative energy" lobbies.

      Next up, Nascar proclaims independence from foreign oil!

        • 6 Years Ago
        Fischer-Troopsch synthesis process (born in the Nazi German to self-made fuel from Ruhr's coal) is NOT convenient under the energy performance (you have to know that 1 energy unit of fuel costs 2 energy unit of raw material & energy process because is a two stage process: first gassificates the raw material, then recombines the "simple" molecules of gas to obtain heavier molecules like an inverse fractioned distillation).
        A similar process may be convenient under the CO2 balance if you use biological raw material like waste wood...
        Sure, to obtain coal at very very low price could make economical convenient using this process, but is always an energy balance negative one.
      • 6 Years Ago
      so the question is:

      Is "a small amount of Biofuel" significant, or is this just a PR move?
        • 6 Years Ago
        Probably mostly PR, but it could also be a test to see how viable the fuel really is in such an application. Baby steps first...Who knows, maybe in the not-too-distant future Audi will be running 100% bio.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I followed a 300 TD Wagon into Boston yesterday. I think it is the first time I have been behing something burning biodiesel.

      Smelled like McDonald's fries at a truckstop. Terrible. A nice coating of that would - I imagine - kill just about anything it covered.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Biodiesel is supposed to smell like normal diesel, what you saw was probably a straight vegetable oil conversion, that uses fried oil directly. It is supposed to be very environmentaly unfriendly, since it produces some nasty toxic gases while burning.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Meanwhile, the Corvettes have been running cellulosic Ethanol all season in American Le Mans. And not a small percentage, but 85%.

      But hey, let's make sure to laud Audi for mixing a small amount of BTL into their ridiculously energy-wasting GTL fuel.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Er, I should clarify. If you read the link above, you see that the article that says the Astons are running E85 was written in advance, there is no follow up to confirm it. However, Scott Atherton (head of IMSA) has confirmed that the Vettes are running cellulosic E85 several times in interviews during the races this season.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Meanwhile, Top Gear have run bio-diesel at the Britcar 24 hours, lets laud them!
        • 6 Years Ago
        The article you mention also points out that Aston Martin will be using the same cellulosic ethanol, yet you only mentioned the corvettes... Why is that? Audi has just issued a press release, and sites like autoblog are probably the only ones reporting it. Sure, the thing with ethanol sounds more impressive than adding a small percentage of biodiesel, but audi and shell PR know that every little bit of publicity is good.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Except the ethanol used in the corvettes comes from much unneeded crops which in the process of being created pollutes even more than regular gas or diesel.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I put the word cellulosic in there for a reason. Cellulosic ethanol can be made from wood chips/sawdust (from production) or scraps (from demolition) just like BTL. So you don't have to grow more crops. Or it can be made from grasses like switchgrass. The jury is still out on that.

        Either way, my point is perfectly valid. The Audi will run a tiny amount of fuel that can be made from wood chips, the Vettes run a much higher percentage. So if what Audi is doing is good, the Vettes are doing better.

        Yes, I'm sure. That's why I typed it there. If only there were a large something people could reference for info like this and a way to search it? Oh wait...

      • 6 Years Ago
      big new? it is not like bio diesel would pollute any less than the regular diesel.
        • 6 Years Ago
        This isn't biodiesel, it's BTL. And the R10 doesn't run biodiesel, it runs GTL.

        GTL is very clean, because it's a synthetic fuel. It is far cleaner than regular diesel or biodiesel and thus the Audi pollutes less. However, GTL is not energy effective and couldn't be used cost-effectively in regular cars. BTL isn't either, at least right now.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Rad. Ethanol has higher octane levels than the gasoline counter part. Does biodiesel have higher cetane levels? If so, this would be brilliant. Higher efficiency burns, more power, longer between stops.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Great move by Audi/Shell. Biodiesel, as is named in Brazil, is slight less powerful than regular diesel, but is certainly more eco-friendly. Also it's not made only of wood chips, but also kitchen oil. Mc Donald's has (or had) some partnership in the studies about viability of the process with a university here (if I'm not mistaken, UFRJ).
        • 6 Years Ago
        Lower potential energy? Are you sure? From what I understand, if the current diesel at the pumps could be improved if you had it consisting of 98% current ultra-low sulfur diesel and 2% biodiesel. AFAIK, you would also improve mileage compared to what was lost when all pumps switched to the new ultra-low sulfur diesel (which, to me, implies higher potential energy than the current batch of diesel).
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