In Europe, the end of combustion engines has been decided for 2035. In Japan, on the other hand, diligent research is continuing into biofuels that are to be used in internal combustion engines. The latest example: a project with the somewhat unwieldy name “Research Network for Biomass Innovations for Next-Generation Automotive Fuels”.
This is a merger of the car manufacturers Toyota, Suzuki, Subaru and Daihatsu, the trading group Toyota Tsusho and the oil and chemical company Eneos. The aim is to optimize the extraction and use of biomass and bioethanol. Big advantage of biofuel: It can save CO2 emissions through photosynthesis during cultivation and growth of the processed plants.
Verbund sets several priorities for the necessary further reduction of carbon dioxide in the entire manufacturing process. Among other things, this involves research into efficient ethanol production systems, the by-product oxygen, and CO2 capture and recycling. Model calculations should be able to predict production quantities of raw material cultivation and fuel. And the cultivation of bioethanol raw materials such as grain, sugar beet or biomass should also become more efficient.
Bioethanol is obtained by distillation after alcoholic fermentation of wheat, rye or sugar beet. It is available in its pure form E100, but it is better known as a mixed form with petrol as E85. It can only be used by special vehicles, so-called Flexible Fuel Vehicles (FFV). Bioethanol was already considered a possible solution for CO2-neutral mobility around 15 years ago, before criticism of the use of food crops dampened enthusiasm.
Japan Alliance for Biodiesel and Hydrogen Engines
An alliance for biofuels had already been formed in Japan at the end of 2021. Mazda, Toyota, Subaru, Kawasaki and Yamaha will work together on biodiesel and hydrogen engines in the future. The aim is to reduce CO2 emissions through climate-neutral driving.
The Japanese see great potential in optimizing combustion engines to improve their carbon footprint. An important key to this are CO2-neutral fuels. Mazda Spirit Racing therefore started in mid-November 2021 in a race of the Super Taikyu series in Okayama, Japan, with a prototype called Demio.
The Mazda Demio’s 1.5-litre diesel engine ran on 100 percent biomass-derived fuel. With tests like the Okayama race, Mazda wants to prove the reliability of this technology and thus contribute to the next generation of biodiesel.
In 2022, Subaru and Toyota will also start with biodiesel vehicles in the racing series mentioned. Manufacturers hope that competition on the race track will accelerate technological development. The advantage: Biofuels can be used in the existing engines without great effort and sold via the current network of filling stations.
Hydrogen engines also reduce the CO2 footprint
From the point of view of the Japanese manufacturers, a second possibility for sustainably reducing the CO2 footprint is hydrogen engines. Together with Denso and Yamaha, Toyota has developed an engine that uses hydrogen instead of petrol and is therefore locally emission-free. The engine also had to prove itself on the racetrack, at the 24-hour race in Fuji. In Okayama, the number two race now followed with more power and more torque. Meanwhile, Yamaha and Kawasaki are exploring the possibility of using a hydrogen engine in two-wheelers and quads and ATVs, respectively.
In order to ensure the production and transport of the hydrogen without using fossil fuels, the manufacturers say they are working with various partners and local communities. In some regions, for example, biomass from waste water treatment is used to produce the fuel. Fuel cell trucks are used for transport.