Overall funding for alternative fuels has shifted from venture capital investment to project financing, aimed at building up first and second facilities and getting them online. Many alternative fuel companies have raised capital from diverse sources, including private equity, loans, and loan guarantees by state and federal governments.
Other sources include corporate partners, such as oil companies interested in scaling up alternative fuels technologies to commercial production levels.
"There's reluctance among some investors because these are unproven technologies," said Soare, going on to say:
In particular, venture capitalists want higher, more likely returns. To mitigate this risk, one of the best strategies fuel companies take is building smaller-scale facilities that leverage existing infrastructure. For example, taking a corn ethanol plant that's no longer producing and retrofitting it to reduce overall cost.
Funding is also decreasing across the board, especially from federal and state governments focused on longer-term goals such as energy diversification and job creation. At the same time, funding from corporations is decreasing somewhat as they reduce investments. "The overall funding of new feedstocks is really a key strategy for oil companies to mitigate the long-term risk of oil price and supply volatility," said Soare.
An earlier Lux Research report on biofuel feedstocks found that by 2030, the available biomass will be insufficient to keep up with demand. Today, more than a billion metric tons of biomass are needed each year for replacing only 3 percent of petroleum-based fuels and chemicals, according to "Finding Feedstocks for the Bio-Based Fuels and Chemicals of Today and 2030."
"By 2030, this number will soar to 3.7 billion metric tons, and meeting the growing challenge will require feedstock innovations such as crop modification, new value chain configurations, and agronomic technology improvements like irrigation and biosensors," said Kalib Kersh, Lux Research analyst and a lead author of the report, in a press release.
This report found that several strategies are being pursued to improve feedstocks. The use of waste, such as municipal solid waste and waste gases like carbon dioxide and flue gas, is increasing. Many universities and companies are pursing research in crop modification, such as breeding plants that are resistance to pests and drought or that can fix their own nitrogen, to reduce their use of agricultural resources. Finally, some alternative fuel makers are developing infrastructure to cut fuel costs and transportation time, such as intermediate conversion facilities that feed into a central processing facility, in a "hub-and-spoke" model.
I can see several flaws in that basic design concept/system architecture--what do cars do for power when they're not on the road? If it means they have to switch power sources, isn't that unnecessarily complex and costly? And doesn't it put too much "power" of another sort in too few hands?
Mydesign, the energy requirements for a stationary object--such as an energy source for a building that provides lights, heating and outlets for plugging in electric/electronic devices--will be very different from an object that must a) propel itself somewhere, and usually also b) provide energy for lights, heating and outlets for plugging in electric/electronic devices. It takes a huge amount of energy to self-propel, which we moderns have perhaps forgotten, since we're so used to the combustion engine and the "horseless carriage." But that aside, solar power is simply another potential source for electricity for an electric vehicle, but one without nearly enough energy density.
Ann, I think other than moving applications, everywhere solar power generators are using. Especially with industries, hospitals, offices etc. But I think its bit difficult & not that much reliable in fixing solar panels over a moving object, especially automobile.
Mydesign, thanks for the clarification on your end. I'm not surprised that the numbers were run for household solar, not other applications. Household solar is on everyone's radar, but other uses have a lot less visibility. Too bad, since it would be good to have more data about other applications easily available.
Ann, thanks for the clarification. When I further dig in to the article, it seems that the ROI and other statical details mentioned are for solar energy for house hold purposes. Am not sure about such statists for automobiles.
Mydesign, are you still talking about the use of solar energy for vehicles? In your previous comment on this, you mentioned that a Wikipedia article cited power density, cost and vehicle design considerations as constraints. I was pointing out that if cost is a problem, it probably has at least as much to do with the low power density, which would be an ongoing problem as a cost-of-ownership factor, as it would with the initial one-time cost of the solar module. So even if there's a 4-5 year ROI on the module--on a house or on a car--in a car there will still be a cost-of-ownership problem with low power density.
"cost is also a constraint, as you point out, but that's primarily because of the low energy/power density."
Ann, am not sure about the cost part. But for house hold purposes, vendors or service proving companies are clamming that ROI is possible within 4 year and there won't be any maintenance for 5-6 years.
LP (liquid propane) has been proposed several times as a transportation fuel. But even as a fuel for use in the home--as it is out here in the woods--it is hindered by the main problem of distribution. It has to be trucked in big tankers since it won't flow in pipes as natural gas does. OTOH, gas stations here routinely dispense LP, at least into small portable handheld tanks.
Artificially created metamaterials are already appearing in niche applications like electronics, communications, and defense, says a new report from Lux Research. How quickly they become mainstream depends on cost-effective manufacturing methods, which will include additive manufacturing.
SpaceX has 3D printed and successfully hot-fired a SuperDraco engine chamber made of Inconel, a high-performance superalloy, using direct metal laser sintering (DMLS). The company's first 3D-printed rocket engine part, a main oxidizer valve body for the Falcon 9 rocket, launched in January and is now qualified on all Falcon 9 flights.
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and MIT have 3D-printed a new class of metamaterials that are both exceptionally light and have exceptional strength and stiffness. The new metamaterials maintain a nearly constant stiffness per unit of mass density, over three orders of magnitude.
Smart composites that let the material's structural health be monitored automatically and continuously are getting closer to reality. R&D partners in an EU-sponsored project have demonstrated what they say is the first complete, miniaturized, fiber-optic sensor system entirely embedded inside a fiber-reinforced composite.
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