For those of us that don’t follow Indy that closely, you can be forgiven for not realising that Honda had already introduced Ethanol-fuelled V8 indy cars in the USA at the beginning of the 2007 season, but now, they are coming to Australia.
Furthermore, it won’t just be one or two cars, the entire grid will be powered by ethanol-powered V8 engines when the cars rev up it at this weekend’s Nikon Indy 300 on the Gold Coast.
Ethanol fuel is derived from plants (e.g. corn) and is seen by many as a step in the right direction. However, the benefits of Ethanol fuel are debatable, whilst better for the environment as a fuel, the production cost and the CO2 produced during the production phase can in some cases outweigh the benefits.
The most obvious problem with ethanol fuel is the ‘food Vs fuel’ debate, where food supplies that can go to feeding large populations have been used to produce fuel. Honda, however, has come up with a clever system of using only the inedible stalks and leaves of plants, leaving the edible parts for human consumption.
Honda in association with the Research Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth (RITE) is working to produce ethanol fuel from cellulose and hemicellulose, compounds found in soft biomass such as vegetable waste which includes inedible leaves and stalks of plants such as rice straw. Of course this already raises the question of whether or not this “waste” is better left for decomposition.
Although the realisation of the technology’s full potential is still some time away, the RITE-Honda research is one of the world’s leading organisation in the ethanol field.
Do you believe the use of ethanol fuel provides a reasonable and long term solution to the energy crisis?