Home brewing for your car

May 9, 2008

the-microfueler-unveiled-in-new-york.jpgA California company called E-Fuel  wants you to ferment home brew  — for your car.  It sells a $10,000 portable “MicroFueler” that plugs into home power and water supplies to ferment sugar into 100 percent ethanol at a rate of 35 gallons ( 132 liters) per week.  

For families that drive at least a combined 34,500 miles (55,520 km)  in cars that get average fuel efficiency, the MicroFueler will pay for itself in less than two years if gasoline prices stay near record levels, says Tom Quinn, the company’s CEO and financial backer.

E-Fuels says it will link buyers to cheap supplies of sugar, such as inedible surplus sweetener from Mexico, and launch a carbon credit system to cut the feedstock cost of regular table sugar.

“This paradigm shift is not going to work unless we can knock out of the ballpark the cost of feedstock,” Quinn said at the unveiling of the MicroFueler in New York. He said the credits could knock down the cost of fueling up to less than $1 per gallon (3.8 liters).

 E-Fuel says the unit will start shipping late this year.

Interesting product, but will it help ease motor fuel prices or fade the black eye corn-made ethanol has gotten for helping to push up grain and food prices? “This could be fun for tinkerers, but unfortunately it’s not a quick solution for our problems,” said Nathanael Greene, a resource specialist at green group the Natural Resources Defense Council.

What do you think? Pricey gadget or fount of bargain fuel?  


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How much electricity and water does this machine use? If this machine is electricity intensive, and it’s very likely that it is, then much of the gas savings will be offset by increased electric costs. And if a person lives in an area with a high percentage of fossil fuel power plants they could still be contributing to harmful emissions. It’s also important to note that a gallon of ethanol yields less mileage than you get out of a gallon of gasoline.

Posted by Rob Safuto | Report as abusive

It is almost a “FUEL CELL” that takes in electricity and makes car fuel.
In many places, a unit that made liquid fuel out of natural gas would be cheaper. There could be an add on unit that prepared CO and H2 to feed to bacteria that make ethanol.(patented process)

In some cases, Charcoal in bags at the store is cheaper than gasoline….HG…

Posted by Henry Gibson | Report as abusive

Any viable alternative solution has to scale without the negative environmental or crop price impact we’re seeing with ethanol. The Micro Fueler is an ‘ ahead of the curve ‘ gadget and for all Tom Quinn’s reassurances of offsetting carbon credits this is a niche product that would cause more problems than it would solve if there was massive take up. We should welcome innovation though it just has to scale to be considered a realistic alternative to the bind we are in with oil based fuels.

Posted by desik | Report as abusive

Does it run in a reg gas car? If so I’d try one!

Posted by Terry in NY | Report as abusive

all viable alternative solutions combined, we can achieve fuel independency in about two decades (my own estimate).

VW recently announced that it would start selling 2-seat 230mpg car by 2010.

Posted by stocksandcommerce | Report as abusive

I doubt it would take that much electricity to run. It just has to keep the yeast warm and run the pump. It probably uses something like a Ronningen-Petter filter instead of an evaporator.

An unmodified gas car should be able to run up to 20% ethanol.

It’s a little pricey for me but cool. Make it a $1000 and I’ll buy one.

Posted by Darren996 | Report as abusive

Aren’t sugar farmers in the U.S. responsible for keeping sugar import prices higher than they would be without trade restrictions? Sugar isn’t terribly cheap right now.

Might be an angle to do some digging on.

The technology’s neat, though, and allowing consumers to make their own additives could circumvent all kinds of barriers. Props to E-Fuel.

Posted by Andrew G | Report as abusive