Before signing up for your next car, consider this: the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil has recently completed a study into the use of sugar cane for the production of ethanol and electricity and the findings might surprise many: the researchers say that only 4% of available cropland would be required to power a worldwide fleet of electric and hybrid cars.
The researchers studied both the benefits and disadvantages of such a programme and came to the conclusion that the amount of land would be much less than what most people currently believe.
They investigated the use of sugar cane mills to produce energy and assumed a hybrid car with an internal combustion engine that runs on ethanol and delivering fuel consumption of 35 miles per gallon.
Their calculations were based on a sugar cane yield of 85 ton per hectare. If each ton of sugar cane produces 90 litres of ethanol, that equates to 7,650 litres of ethanol per hectare of sugar cane. They also took into account that an ethanol engine is only 75% as fuel efficient as a petrol engine.
The researchers found that if all cars were replaced by electric vehicles the USA would need 697 TWh/year to power its entire fleet of vehicles. This is a relatively modest figure compared to the current electricity consumption of that country.
If bioelectricity and ethanol were utilised in an optimum proportion, the U.S. would require 385 billion litres of ethanol and 262 TWh of electricity to power a fleet of 86 million electric and 143 million hybrid vehicles.
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