Corn ethanol promoters, get out your keyboards. You've got another dragon to slay. A new study has found that it is more efficient to straight-up burn plant material to generate electricity and then charge up electric vehicles than to make ethanol for those vehicles. Professor Elliot Campbell at the University of California Merced was lead author of a study that looked at the most efficient way to power transportation vehicles from biomass. The headline numbers: "biomass converted into electricity produced 81 percent more transportation miles and 108 percent more emissions offsets compared to ethanol."

"If you have a limited amount of land you're working with, and you want to squeeze the most transportation off that limited amount of land, then the electricity route makes the most sense," Campbell told NPR.

No one questions that an electric motor is way more efficient than an ICE for purposes of in-vehicle efficiency comparisons, but this study is not as cut and dried. Campbell and his co-authors did not look at the complete ecosystem (both natural and political) for ethanol and EVs; they simply tried to calculate "miles per area cropland" and greenhouse gas offsets when starting with both corn and switchgrass and ending with vehicles moving down the road. In this calculation, electric vehicles win.

Listen to a two-minute audio clip over on NPR and download the paper in PDF. Thanks to Bryant and Jason for the tips.

[Source: NPR, UC Merced]
Photo by net_efekt. Licensed under Creative Commons license 2.0.


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