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Algae Powering World’s First Electric Grand Prix

The world soon will see its first electric Grand Prix series with cars powered with electricity derived from algae as part of an effort to showcase the best in new zero emission technologies, BusinessGreen reports.

The racing organization, Formula E, has signed a deal with UK start-up Aquafuel to supply generators powered by glycerine, a byproduct of biodiesel that also can be produced from salt-water algae. The fuel is biodegradable, non-toxic and can be used in modified diesel generators to generate power. The compound comes from algae and has zero carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. When it burns, there is no smoke, smell, or even sound.

Algae is a popular option for biofuels largely because it does not compete with feedstocks grown on agricultural land, such as corn. However, the technology still is in its nascent stages, meaning that the Formula E generators will have to be moved around the world to the nine cities hosting races.

Formula E is intended to showcase electric cars to a new urban audience, with research by consultancy EY suggesting it will help drive 77 million additional electric vehicle sales over the next 25 years, BusinessGreen says.

The season begins in Beijing on September 13, then moving to Miami, Buenos Aires, Monte Carlo and Berlin, before concluding in London's Battersea Park on June 27, 2015.

Even NASCAR has made headway in becoming more sustainable by introducing the use of biofuels, incorporating renewable energy into raceways and encouraging NASCAR teams to recycle. This resulted from the NASCAR Green initiative, started in 2008 after the organization created a department dedicated to the integration of environmentally sound practices within auto racing. Aware of its stigma as “the dirtiest sport in America,” NASCAR sought to change this image through thought leadership and influencer engagement.

Using algae for biofuels has proved difficult to scale because it takes too long to accumulate enough usable biomass, despite being one of the fastest-growing organisms, which leads to high costs. One way to reduce costs is to decrease the amount of time it takes to grow algae. In July, a research team at AlgaStar Inc, a Florida-based algae cultivation company, reported biological simulation yielded a 300 percent increase in algae growth rate over normal conditions. The company's algae production and biostimulation system integrates two types of electromagnetic energy — a millitesla generator and a millimeter microwave generator — which radiate spontaneous growth energy into large volumes of algae biomass to be economically viable.

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