Fuel 2.0: E-Fuel's MicroFueler Will Put An Ethanol Refinery in Your Driveway

Could you power your car and your house on your household waste? Maybe

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I didn’t expect to see an ethanol production plant pitched as a consumer technology at DemoFall 2010. But after more than a day of social networking, online shopping, and cloud technologies I was happy to see a product that does something useful, is good for the environment, and doesn’t want to be my friend. Even if it was big, green, and kind of ugly.

The Microfueler, from E-Fuel Corp., is definitely not for everyone. But if you’re really commited to energy independence—or, like some of my neighbors, have a little home wine-making operation with a lot of high-sugar content organic waste, it may be for you. E-Fuel already sells a system that ferments organic waste and converts it into ethanol. Start out with waste with a heavy sugar content, if you have a home wine-making operation, say, and the process is particularly efficient. (I do know folks who fall into this category.) The system includes a $10,000 home auto fueling pump to extracts gas-tank-ready ethanol from a fermented tank, and a $6000 generator that can power your home from this fuel supply. At DemoFall 2010, held in Santa Clara, Calif., the company added a component to this system--what it calls a column reactor, which it says will speed the fermentation process to minutes instead of days; no word on the price yet on this final device, says CEO Thomas Quinn, who tells me how it all fits together, in the video above.

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This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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