October 10, 2009

Algae-fueled car completes cross-country tour, gears up for another

The Algaeus, a vehicle that runs on algae-based fuel, recently finished a cross-country trip to promote the film “FUEL,” and now will be featured on a college educational tour around the nation.

The car, based on a 2008 Toyota Prius with an added battery pack, a plug and an advanced energy management system, finished its 10-day tour from San Francisco to New York City Sept. 18. The unmodified engine got an average 147 miles per gallon (mpg) city in plug-in electric hybrid mode (PHEV) and 52 mpg highway in hybrid mode, according to Sapphire Energy, the company that made the fuel blend.

The fuel is a blend of 5 percent algae and 95 percent fossil fuel, according to Tim Zenk, vice president of corporate affairs for Sapphire, and is a drop-in replacement for existing transportation fuels, from refining, to distribution and the pump. The company grows its algae in pond systems with sunlight, carbon dioxide, nutrients and nonpotable or saltwater in the desert. Sapphire uses its proprietary process to harvest the algae and extract the green crude from the biomass. The crude is then refined into gas, diesel and jet fuel, Zenk said.

The tour was sponsored by the Veggie Van Organization and included a press conference on Capitol Hill. The college tour will also include the Veggie Van Organization, an interactive classroom retrofit “Green Energy Bus” and the “FUEL” team. “FUEL” was intended to inspire green energy solutions and was directed by Josh Tickell, founder/co-director of the Veggie Van Organization.

Sapphire Energy is in the research and development phase, but plans to have a demonstration plant built within three years and be commercially operational by 2018, according to Zenk. The company’s goal is to produce 1 billion gallons per year by 2025, he added.

“The Algaeus is a fantastic test platform that demonstrates not only Sapphire Energy’s abilities to take algae and produce hydrocarbon replacements, but also plug-in hybrid technology,” Zenk said. “If we are going to get our economy, our environment and our planet on the road to sustainability, we need to explore and employ all green energy technologies.”

Through the success of the Algaeus, Sapphire Energy hopes to further educate about clean solutions like algae-based green crude and address the energy security and climate crisis, according to Zenk. “The Algaeus tour gets us one step closer to moving from ponds to the pump with a renewable fuel that doesn’t require changes to our vehicles, refineries or distribution systems,” he said.

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