General Motors is entering five-year partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to help develop the potential of the jatropha plant as a possible oil-crop for biodiesel. It appears that India, where jatropha grows quite well, will be their laboratory. Three farms will be dedicated to growing jatropha plants, the largest of the three is a 94-acre spread in Kalol, near GM's India Car Manufacturing plant. A complete lifecycle analysis will be conducted to evaluate the environmental impacts, starting with fertilizer production from raw materials and ending with harvesting the jathropha fruits.
The goal of the project is to demonstrate that jatropha can produce significant quantities of oil for conversion to biodiesel and to develop new varieties of the plant that have higher yields, can withstand frost and grow in temperate climates such as the United States (right now, the U.S.' main feedstock for biodiesel is soy). Jatropha is considered to be fairly drought-resistant, and – theoretically – can be grown commercially with minimal care and on marginal land. Selective breeding of the jathropha plants will hopefully produce the hearty, oil-rich specimens needed to make jatropha a more global feedstock.
Recently, GM also announced its plans to bring E85 to Australia.
[Source: Green Car Congress | Image: Reinhard Henning - C.C. License 2.0]