Friday, May 30, 2008

Homemade Ethanol: The Future Or Waste Of Money?

Efuel 100Efuel Corporation could not have picked a better time to unveil their state-of-the art home ethanol distillery. Despite its $10,000 ask price, the EFuel100 MicroFueler is a remarkable product that might provide Americans with a glimmer of hope. The device can produce up to 35 gallons of ethanol from a combination of sugar, yeast and water that can be pumped directly into your vehicle.

The process is as easy as “third grade science,” according to CEO and founder Tom Quinn. The feedstock, which consists of sugar and yeast, is loaded into the machine, which then mixes it with water and uses a membrane system to turn the ingredients into ethanol in about a week. The device uses a standard household 110 to 220 volt AC power supply and consumes about 150 watts.

But is the EFuel100 practical? It takes 14 pounds of feedstock to produce a gallon of ethanol. If you were to use EFuel’s Carbon Credit Coupon Program, you could buy discounted EFuel certified sugar feedback for 15 to 30 cents per pound which would cost $2.10 to $4.20 per gallon by my calculation, not including electricity costs.

Most cars are capable of running on ethanol as long as they are equipped with a converter kit. This isn’t necessary for some of the new flex cars, but traditional cars will likely need to have the converter kit installed, which costs around $700.

There is also a $1,000 federal tax credit available, which will help offset some of the initial $10,000 investment. While I think it is more economical than a $100,000 Tesla electric roadster, most people are still probably better off with a good hybrid.

While promising as an alternative fuel source, there are several issues with the Efuel100. Food and electricity prices have been skyrocketing right along with oil, so the cost of fuel for the Efuel100 keeps going up. It may not scale since it requires loads of sugar to operate, and most people don’t have room in their homes for hundreds of pounds of sugar. Worst of all, a study by Stanford University professor Mark Jacobson found ethanol is no better for air quality because it releases formaldehyde and acetaldehyde into the atmosphere, which can be harmful to humans. Then of course there is the initial $10,000 investment. Because the savings on over gas is pretty minimal it would take a long time for someone to recoup that initial investment.

Despite the drawbacks, I like the idea of fighting the profiteering oil companies by creating my own fuel. If you have an extra $10,000 lying around, and loads of extra storage space, why not be an early adopter and help fuel demand for alternative fuel sources? If this product does well, it will lead to companies creating even better fuel devices, which in the end should help everyone.

This was a guest post by Charles Sipe. If you want to read more from him visit his blog.

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