At present, bioethanol and biodiesel are the two main types of biofuel. Like all biofuels, their advantage over fossil fuels is that they are easily renewable.
Bioethanol is largely produced from starchy crops like wheat and sugar cane. And biodiesel derives from oily crops such as rapeseed, sunflower and palm. It can even be produced from recovered cooking oil.
Yet for all their sustainability, these first generation biofuels have significant flaws. They are expensive to produce and have a much lower energy content than fossil fuels – so fuel economy is poor.
What’s more, they are only really suitable as an additive to fossil fuels – usually in a blend of just 5% biofuel. Otherwise biodiesel, for example, is so viscous it can clog and damage modern diesel injection systems.
However, as a member of the Alliance for Synthetic Fuels in Europe (ASFE), Mercedes-Benz will continue to promote them as a good short to medium term alternative fuel source.
We’re currently developing technologies to enable our cars to run on 10% biofuel blends. And we’re also promoting the manufacture of biodiesel in India from Jatropha shrubs. Since these plants thrive on poor soil they offer subsistence farmers a welcome source of additional income.