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A look at 6 unusual experiments under way that could plausibly replace conventional gasoline

A car that could run on thin air? On the road by 2016? That's what Peugot-Citroen says it will be selling: A hybrid car that runs on a combination of gasoline and air.

On top of certifying plug-in vehicles with mpg and mpge ratings (Chevy Volt, 93 mpge; Nissan Leaf, 99) and delaying E15 decisions, the EPA is also tasked with figuring out the 2011 Renewable Fuel Standards. Today, the agency finalized the 2011 percentage standards for the four categories of fuel – cellulosic biofuel, biomass-dericed diesel, advanced biofuel and renewable fuel – that make up the agency's renewable fuel standard program, known as RFS2.

A little over two years ago, the big news was that automaker General Motors had invested in start-up cellulosic ethanol company Coskata. This week, we learned that a giant from another industry, French oil company Total, has put a lot of money (the total amount was not disclosed) into Coskata, leading a Series C prime funding round. In return, Total gets a seat on Coskata's board. Total has also invested in butanol company Gevo.

Coskata Lighthouse Cellulosic Ethanol Plant - Click above for high-res image gallery

Coskata caught our attention back in January 2008 with the announcement that GM would take an equity stake in the cellulosic ethanol producer in an effort to bring the biofuel to market at a cost of just $1 a gallon. Since then, things haven't gone quite as smoothly as Coskata executives might have hoped and deadlines have been missed, but the company is hoping that today's unveiling of a semi-commercial flex ethanol facility will show things are back on track.

Representatives from one of the GM-backed cellulosic ethanol concerns, Coskata, have been visiting the Asia-Pacific region recently to tout their anything-into-ethanol technology. In Thailand, they recommended that the Thai government work to make "Thailand the ethanol manufacturing hub for Asia," according to the Thai newspaper The Nation. Before committing to a Thai location, though, Coskata wants the government to have "clear-cut tax regulations, lower import tariffs for machines, and support

Coskata CEO Bill Roe in happier times, January 2008

Looking back on 2008, it seems that the biggest stories that shaped the automotive landscape had more to do with gas prices and economic conditions than the vehicles themselves. Regardless, there are quite a few new technologies that are just starting to make waves, and many of them are intended to reduce the world's use of petroleum and the resultant emissions. Proof positive can be seen in Motor Trend's list of the "Top Ten Tech Treasures" of 2008. For instance, the first two bits of technolog

Sugar cane photo by 91RS. Licensed under Creative Commons license 2.0.

As promised, we got a chance to sit down with Wes Bolsen, the CMO and vice president at Coskata, during last week's Platts Cellulosic Ethanol Conference in Chicago. We wanted a little more information on the $1/gallon number for the Coskata process "cellulosic" ethanol (yes, Bolsen pointed out that it's really carbon ethanol, but he's OK with people using the cellulosic term, even though he prefers to call it "next generation" ethanol). About half of the cost is set aside for feedstocks, the res

Thursday at the Platts Cellulosic Ethanol Conference saw three of the cellulosic ethanol plant builders give updates on their strategy for converting biomass to fuel and where their companies are today. The speakers were Wes Bolsen, CMO and vp at Coskata, Christopher Veit, senior marketing manager, biomass, for Novozymes, Inc., and Murray Burke, president and CTO of SunOpta. The short version of each of their speeches: we're doing amazing things, you should really take another look at our techno

Tomorrow and Friday, GM is hosting a biofuels seminar in Chicago. We'll be bringing you full coverage from the Windy City, but before we head over, we wanted to check up on what Coskata has been up to, considering that our friend Wes Bolsen will be on hand and we'll get an update directly from him. The company hasn't put out any press releases since April, but that doesn't mean nothing has happened.

You probably remember that back in January of this year, General Motors announced that it was partnering up with Coskata to make cheap cellulosic ethanol using a process developed by Coskata which includes the use of microorganisms developed by Oklahoma State University and Oklahoma University. Coskata has apparently broken ground on a new plant that is being built in Pennsylvania. While Coskata appears to be moving along at a fine pace, Auto Observer is reporting that Coskata is not the only ce

General Motors and Coskata today announced that a pilot plant for cellulosic ethanol will be built in Madison, Pennsylvania. The plant will located adjacent to the Westinghouse Plasma Center in Madison. The plasma torches that Coskata will be using for their gasification process are based on technology that was developed by GM and Westinghouse in the early eighties. At that time the companies developed a plasma furnace used to melt raw materials for cast iron production at GM foundries. The firs

When Coskata came out of stealth mode in January, the company announced that a 40,000 gallon-per-year commercial demonstration plant using a proprietary microbial cellulosic ethanol production process would be in operation by the end of 2008. Greentech Media reports that the biofuel start-up has begun construction on this demo plant, but we still don't know where. The location should be announced later this month, and the fuel from the plant will be used by GM at the Milford Testing Grounds and,

The magical cost of $1 per gallon of cellulosic ethanol is certainly a hot calling card these days, and one of the most well-known purveyors of this story is Coskata. Coskata splashed onto the scene in January with the big GM announcement, and has stayed in the news by announcing a partnership with ICM and, later this month, will disclose the location of its 40,000 gallons a year demonstration facility.

Photo by Jenn_Jenn. Licensed under Creative Commons license 2.0.

Oklahoma State University: the school of ethanol made from sweet sorghum. Also, the place where the proprietary microorganisms that Coskata uses in its cellulosic ethanol process came from. OSU certainly is no stranger to biofuels, and a new $1.2m bioenergy laboratory will further research turning plants and other carbon matter into liquid fuel.

When AutoblogGreen visited Coskata's Chicago headquarters, we didn't get into details about just how ordinary (in a 21st century American suburban business park kind of way) the surrounding area looked. Cars.com's description of their visit, though, starts off by questioning whether this potential energy leader's location is fitting for such important work:

Some people use airport layovers to sleep, read, or get a meal. Sam and Sebastian took the opportunity to record AutoblogGreen Podcast #19. While waiting for a plane to whisk them back home from the Chicago Auto Show, we recapped a few things we saw at the show. It wasn't the greenest show we've seen, but they have the biggest building, by their own admission. A few things left impressions on us, first of which was the GMC Denali XT. The Zeta variant is the first use of GM's Two-mode hybrid syst

To get a little more information out of Coskata about this morning's announcement of a partnership with ICM to build the first commercial cellulosic ethanol plant using Coskata's proprietary process (past details on Coskata are here), we tracked down Wes Bolsen, chief marketing officer, business development at the company. Bolsen was an executive at ICM in his previous life, so he is very familiar with what ICM is all about (for now, this is building a lot of corn ethanol plants in the U.S.) and

While not as big a deal as Coskata's announcement at the Detroit Auto Show, the company is not letting the Chicago Auto Show go by without letting some more cellulosic ethanol news slip out. The company announced today that it had formed a strategic alliance with ICM for the design and construction of cellulosic ethanol plants. ICM is a background player in the ethanol field, and its patented proprietary process technology is responsible for about half of the ethanol made at plants in the U.S.

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