September 18, 2012

Growing green auto partnerships

Like consumer goods companies, the automotive supply chain is one of the pioneers in adopting bio-based chemicals (and biofuels of course although US auto manufacturers are still grumbling about engine compatibility especially with certain ethanol blends...).
This week, algae developer Joule announced its partnership with German automotive manufacturer AUDI AG -- a subsidiary of Volkswagen AG -- in the development and future use of Joule's Sunflow-E (which stands for ethanol), and Sunflow-D (which stands for diesel).

Joule said the relationship will help spur production of Joule's biofuels including fuel testing and validation, lifecycle analysis and support for Joule's SunSprings demo facility in Hobbs, New Mexico, which began operating this month.

Joule announced that it has already achieved productivity rates for its ethanol at 15,000 gal/acre/year in the lab and 8,000 gal/acre in outdoor production. Joule ultimately targets productivity of up to 25,000 gallons of Sunflow-E per acre annually, at costs as low as $1.28/gallon without subsidies.

Sunflow-D is reportedly in development with an ultimate productivity target of 15,000 gallons/acre/year at costs as low as $50/barrel without subsidies.

Joule said it will benefit from Audi’s considerable expertise and global reach as well as from the strength of its brand. In turn, Audi said it will have a first mover advantage as Joule’s exclusive partner in the automotive sector.

Meanwhile, Audi's parent company Volkswagen, has also been busy earlier this year as it announced its partnership with Amyris and Solazyme last March to evaluate the use of each of the company's respective advanced biodiesel technology in Volkswagen's TDI Clean Diesel technology incorporated in the 2012 Passat and 2012 Jetta models.

Amyris has been developing its Biofene farnesene-based renewable diesel while Solazyme's technology harnesses the oil-producing ability of microalgae to produce its SoladieselRD fuel. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has already approved Solazyme's registration for its biodiesel which enables the company to market the biofuel either in blended and unblended (R100) forms.

Both Amyris and Solazyme have 12 months evaluation period to equip Volkswagen engineers data for the automotive company to measure environmental impacts from the use of each renewable diesel formulas. Volkswagen said their clean diesel TDI models accounted for 22% of their 2011 sales, significantly up over the past recent years.

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