First generation biofuels are outdated and second generation biofuels are not yet commercially feasible. Improvements in conversion processes of second generation biofuels will be an important factor in regions such as Europe complying with the 10 per cent biofuels mandate by 2020. Third and fourth generation biofuels are still in their infancy. Consequently, Europe is expected to achieve only 5 per cent against a biofuels target of 5.75 per cent by 2010.
At the same time, end consumers are apprehensive about the increase in food prices, because of alternate demand for biofuels. This is hampering the sales of biofuel vehicles. Worldwide production of biofuels exceeded 12 billion gallons in 2005, which is only a small fraction of the total fuel demand.
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"Although the primary aim of promoting biofuels is to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, regional discrepancies in adoption rates and strategies have led to a complex global biofuels scenario," notes Frost & Sullivan (http://www.automotive.frost.com) Research Manager Kaushik Madhavan. "On the one hand, countries like Brazil and Sweden are pushing hard for increased bio-content with mandates for both OEMs and oil companies. In other regions, the bio-content mandate is staggered mainly due to feedstock concerns and end consumer fears related to the food vs. fuel debate."
The cost disadvantage of producing biofuels is significantly higher than the benefits achieved from their use. This scenario is unlikely to change until 2015, even with the use of second generation biofuels. Challenges related to warranty are also dampening market prospects; OEMs cannot offer any assurances or guarantees in the event of using high biofuels content, owing to the absence of certification and standardised vehicle testing guidelines.
Regional variations and regulations pertaining to the certification of biofuels have resulted in qualitative differences. OEMs are concerned about sourcing feedstock from Southeast Asian countries citing quality issues. Global certification of biofuels will be necessary to ensure compatibility across regions.
"Diesel exhaust after-treatment is an important concern in applications with high biofuels content," adds Madhavan. "The efficiency of DPF is compromised if the biofuel content exceeds 5-6 per cent. OEMs using the post-injection based regeneration techniques are not confident of authorising high bio-content usage in their vehicles."
Biofuel mandates for gasoline engines are energy based; moving to a volume-based replacement will increase ethanol content by up to 50 per cent. This will reduce the specific power output, although OEMs are working towards sensor-based engine management systems to ensure minimal impact on driving characteristics.
"Farming subsidies given by local governments are becoming critical as farmers choose biofuels over food crops," comments Madhavan. "Countries with high biofuel consumptions, such as Sweden, are importing feedstock from countries like Brazil thereby increasing food prices. Vast areas of forest land have been erased in Malaysia by farmers wanting to make quick money by exporting feedstock to Europe."
EU research schemes allow funding for biofuels only on a limited scale. The involvement of private research companies and universities, in collaboration with OEMs and oil companies, will promote greater maturity in 2nd generation processes.
"Second generation biofuels will be commercially successful only if the price of extracting biofuels is lower than or equal to the price of producing fossil fuels," concludes Madhavan. "Consortia involving oil companies, OEMs, universities and equity companies will bring about stability in processes and help attain economic feasibility in the production of second generation biofuels."
Executive Report on Assessment of the Global Biofuels Market and Implications to Europe is part of the Automotive & Transportation Growth Partnership Services programme, which also includes research in the following markets: Strategic Review of Global Biofuels Market for Automotive Applications, Strategic Analysis of the European Market for HCCI Technologies, Strategic Assessment of the ACEA Agreement and its Implications on European OEMs, Strategic Assessment of Euro 5 and Euro 6 Limits for Passenger Vehicles, SWOT Analysis of Key Engine Emission Control Technologies and Strategic Analysis of in-car Green Technologies. All research included in subscriptions provide detailed market opportunities and industry trends that have been evaluated following extensive interviews with market participants. Interviews with the press are available.
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