At Volkswagen's Autostadt in Wolfsburg, Germany, visitors can grow their
own SunFuel by activating a computer that automatically plants each
visitor's watercress plant. The visitor receives a code that can be
accessed online to watch her plant grow before it is turned into
biomass. Photo: Frauke Hachtmann, NewsNetNebraska
by Stacie Sibbel, NewsNetNebraska
July 12, 2007
Editor's note: Stacie Sibbel joined several CoJMC students lead by
German native professor Frauke Hachtmann in an exploration of global
advertising issues in Berlin and Munich, Germany this past month.
Volkswagen continues work toward developing cars that are ecologically
sound. Since the year 2000, the company has been working on a fuel
strategy to overcome the challenge of reliance upon oil as the primary
resource in the current fuel production chain. In response to this
challenge, Volkswagen is creating an alternative fuel and designing new
vehicle concepts that will utilize diverse energy sources.
Like many companies in the automobile industry Volkswagen is trying to
find a way to use less oil and more of something else. According to
Volkswagen's Fuel and Powertrain Strategy, the company's long-term
project includes enhancing traditional energy sources based on petroleum
and creating a fuel strategy centered on diverse raw materials rather
than fossils. As a result of this project, a variety of raw materials,
from natural gas to straw, would be utilized in the future in existing
cars and distributed at existing gas stations.
In order to transition from petroleum reliance, Volkswagen is promoting
the more widespread use of carbon dioxide-neutral energy sources and in
particular the use of biomass. Biomass is biological material that can
be used alongside oil and natural gas in the production of liquid fuels.
Volkswagen is not the only entity with this idea though; Volkswagen's
Fuel and Powertrain Strategy report reveals that the Federal Republic of
Germany has created a fuel strategy that also utilizes biomass. By 2010,
it is projected biofuels will comprise 5.75 percent of the fuel market
Volkswagen's fuel strategy brings about other benefits in addition to
decreasing petroleum reliance. These enhanced fuels will support and
promote engine technologies such as the direct-injection petrol engine
and the direct-injection diesel engine.
Many materials can be derived from biomass, such as synthetic fuel or
"SunFuel" for short. This fuel is a nontraditional low-sulfur fuel that
can be derived from plants, waste products, and other raw materials.
Since this fuel is made from biomass, it enables the CO2 cycle to be
closed almost completely, which is environmentally less damaging.
Volkswagen's Mobility and Sustainability Web site lists these advantages
of using SunFuel and more.
For example, Volkswagen claims that SunFuel can be used in current
engines and be distributed at existing gas stations. The cost of this
SunFuel is currently 70 euro cents per liter and will possibly decrease
to 50 euro cents per liter in the near future according to Volkswagen's
Fuel and Powertrain strategy.
Using biomass material for fuel production opens up many opportunities
for farmers, which could also benefit Nebraska farmers. According to a
study conducted by the Institute for Energy and Environment in Leipzig,
Germany, farmers will be able to produce 70 million metric tons of
SunFuel a year without cutting back on food crops. This amount of
SunFuel would meet a large portion of the total demand for vehicle fuel.
The era of biofuels is still a concept for the future and there are many
technical and organizational obstacles to be overcome before large
quantities can be distributed. In order for this SunFuel strategy to
become a reality, further gains need to be made in research and
technology. Volkswagen fully supports this effort. The company
contributed one million euro in September 2006 to the Technical
University Braunschweig in Germany. "We consider the framework
conditions for a transfer from academic research on alternative fuels to
practical industrial application to be good," said Prof. Leohold, the
president of the University at the signing ceremony in Braunschweig.
Not only is Volkswagen donating money but it is seeking public support
for this enhanced fuel. One prime example would be at the Volkswagen
Autostadt, a theme park promoting the Volkswagen's brand located in
Wolfsburg, Germany. A "SunFuel lab" exists to inform visitors about the
alternative fuel. This lab is a station that lets the visitor control a
robot that then plants watercress seed in a container. Through a
computer system, the robot tracks the growth of each watercress plant
and allows the visitor to view its growth on the Internet. A photo is
taken everyday over a period of nine days until it is harvested and
processed into SunFuel. Through the SunFuel lab, public awareness of
SunFuel and alternative fuels in general, is increasing with every
visitor to the Autostadt.
Check for earlier Pacific Biofuel posts: http://pacbiofuel.blogspot.com/