As more and more organizations are finding ways to create fuel from waste — case in point: Italy is about to become the first country to require cars and trucks to run on biofuel made from agricultural waste — Chevrolet says its 2015 Bi-fuel Impala will be able to run on leftovers, table scraps and, oh, yeah, grains from brewing beer (welcome to the present, Back to the Future fans!).
Cleveland-based quasar energy group uses organic waste to produce biogas — the raw mixture of gases given off by the breakdown of organic materials kept in an oxygen-less environment. The resulting methane gas is then processed, removing all carbon dioxide and impurities to make Renewable Natural Gas (RNG). When compressed, RNG is a direct replacement for CNG — one of two fuels that can power the 2015 Bi-fuel Impala.
Since biogas can be made from most organic materials, quasar insources raw materials - otherwise considered waste - from a variety of industries. For instance, its Columbus, Ohio Renewable Energy Facility processes up to 25,000 wet tons of biosolids from Columbus’ Department of Public Utilities for wastewater. Progressive Field, home of the Cleveland Indians, contributes food waste for CNG-production after it’s been macerated in an industrial-sized InSinkErator Grind2Energy garbage disposal. And don’t forget beer: Anheuser-Busch’s Columbus brewery provides an organic by-product to quasar for conversion to methane gas.
“If you can buy renewable fuel at $1.95 per gallon while reducing greenhouse gas emissions, everybody wins,” said Mel Kurtz, president of quasar energy group. “quasar’s Columbus facility can produce 1.3 million gasoline gallon equivalents of CNG each year.”
That’s enough to fill the CNG tanks of 163,000 Bi-fuel Impalas at least once.
Though CNG fueling stations are prevalent in states such as California and Oklahoma, infrastructure in some states remains scarce.
“To avoid feelings of range anxiety common in owners of CNG-only vehicles, we made the Impala bi-fuel, allowing our customers to drive on CNG when available and on gasoline when it’s not,” said Nichole Kraatz, Impala chief engineer.
The CNG tank mounted in the trunk has the equivalent capacity of 7.8 gallons of gasoline, which is expected to offer approximately 150 city miles of range on compressed natural gas, based on GM testing. With gasoline and CNG combined, expected range is 500 city miles based on GM testing. EPA estimates are not yet available.
Chevy says the Impala’s bi-fuel system seamlessly switches to gasoline power when the CNG tank is depleted. Drivers who wish to change fuels while driving can do so by simply pushing a button. A light on the instrument panel indicates when CNG is being used, and there is no interruption in the vehicle’s performance.
Operating on CNG can result in an average fuel savings of nearly $1.13 per gasoline-gallon-equivalent based on a national average of $3.24 per gallon of gasoline as reported by AAA and $2.11 per gge of CNG, as reported by CNGnow. Also, CNG vehicles typically have 20 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline-powered cars, according to the California Air Resources Board.
Chevy says when the Bi-fuel Impala goes on sale later this year, it will be the only bifuel-capable sedan on the market to offer a factory warranty.
quasar energy group is also helping the Cleveland Browns to divert all food waste from FirstEnergy Stadium away from landfills for conversion by anaerobic digestion into biofuel to power the city. The Browns are the first professional franchise to implement the Grind2Energy™ system from InSinkErator to convert food scraps into a slurry, which is transported to an anaerobic digester operated by quasar at Ohio State University's Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center.