Hey, Doc! Sewage, Beer and Food Scraps Can Power Chevrolet's Bi-fuel Impala +VIDEO
DETROIT - October 20, 2014: Trash to fuel, the stuff of the 1980s sci-fi comedy movie trilogy “Back to the Future,” is now a reality. The 2015 Bi-fuel Chevrolet Impala – not a tricked-out DeLorean – really can run on leftovers, table scraps and, oh, yeah, grains from brewing beer.
Cleveland-based quasar energy group uses organic waste to produce a renewable energy source known as biogas, which is then converted into Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) – one of two fuels that can power the 2015 Chevrolet Bi-fuel Impala.
Biogas is the raw mixture of gases given off by the breakdown of organic materials kept in an oxygen-less environment. The resulting methane gas is then processed, removing all carbon dioxide and impurities to make Renewable Natural Gas (RNG). When compressed, RNG is a direct replacement for CNG.
Since biogas can be made from most organic materials, quasar insources raw materials, otherwise considered waste, from a variety of industries. For instance, its Columbus, Ohio Renewable Energy Facility processes up to 25,000 wet tons of biosolids from the City of Columbus Department of Public Utilities for wastewater.
Progressive Field, home of the Cleveland Indians, contributes food waste for CNG-production after it’s been macerated in an industrial-sized InSinkErator Grind2Energy garbage disposal. And don’t forget beer: Anheuser-Busch’s Columbus brewery provides an organic by-product to quasar for conversion to methane gas.
“If you can buy renewable fuel at $1.95 per gallon while reducing greenhouse gas emissions, everybody wins,” said Mel Kurtz, president of quasar energy group. “quasar’s Columbus facility can produce 1.3 million gasoline gallon equivalents of CNG each year.”
That’s enough to fill the CNG tanks of 163,000 Bi-fuel Impalas at least once.
Though CNG fueling stations are prevalent in states like California and Oklahoma, infrastructure in some states is scarce.
“To avoid feelings of range anxiety common in owners of CNG-only vehicles, we made the Impala bi-fuel, allowing our customers to drive on CNG when available and on gasoline when it’s not,” said Nichole Kraatz, Impala chief engineer.
The CNG tank mounted in the trunk has the equivalent capacity of 7.8 gallons of gasoline, which is expected to offer approximately 150 city miles of range on compressed natural gas based on GM testing. With gasoline and compressed natural gas combined, expected range is 500 city miles based on GM testing. EPA estimates are not yet available.
Impala’s bi-fuel system seamlessly switches to gasoline power when the CNG tank is depleted. Drivers who wish to change fuels while driving can do so by simply pushing a button. A light on the instrument panel indicates when CNG is being used, and there is no interruption in the vehicle’s performance.
Operating on CNG can result in an average fuel savings of nearly $1.13 per gasoline-gallon-equivalent based on a national average of $3.24 per gallon of gasoline as reported by AAA and $2.11 per gge of CNG, reported by CNGnow. Also, CNG vehicles typically have 20 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline-powered cars, according to the California Air Resources Board.
The Bi-fuel Impala is factory-built so its CNG fuel system is validated by GM and covered by GM’s three-year/36,000-mile (whichever comes first) new vehicle limited bumper-to-bumper warranty and five-year/100,000-mile (whichever comes first) limited powertrain warranty. The Bi-fuel Impala is the only bifuel-capable sedan on the market to offer a factory warranty.
When the Bi-fuel Impala goes on sale later this year, it will have a starting price of $38,210.