General Motors Changes Gears, Shifts to Ethanol

By Jason Simpkins
Associate Editor

General Motors Corp. (GM) said Wednesday that half its U.S. vehicles will run on ethanol by 2012, the Associated Press reported.

Giving a speech at the Chicago Auto Show, GM North American President Troy Clarke said his company will have 11 ethanol-capable vehicles on the market this year and 15 in 2009. GM already has 2.5 million ethanol-capable vehicles on the road and hopes to have 20 million in service by 2020.

"We don't only want to respond to the needs of the market, we want to anticipate them," Clarke said.

If GM, Ford Motor Co. (F), and Chrysler LLC were to meet their expected quotas for ethanol capable vehicles over the next 12 years, the United States would save 29 billion gallons of fuel annually.

Clarke and GM also announced that Coskata Inc., a GM partner, will team with ICM Inc. in building an ethanol plant. The plant will be designed and constructed by ICM, which specializes in ethanol plant design. It is set to open in late 2010 and will be Coskata's first ethanol plant.

Coskata said the plant will be capable of converting feedstock, biomass and agricultural or municipal waste into ethanol for less than $1 a gallon. The company claims its process uses less than one gallon of water for every gallon of cellulosic ethanol produced and reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 84 percent compared with gasoline.

Tests carried out by Argonne National Laboratory have shown Coskata's cellulosic ethanol generates 7.7 times the energy used to produce it, compared with 1.3 times for corn-based ethanol, Reuters News Agency reports.

Cellulose is a structural material contained in nearly every plant and tree, as opposed to traditional ethanol, which comes mostly from corn.  However, right now it costs twice as much to produce cellulosic ethanol than it does ethanol derived from corn or sugar.

News and Related Story Links: