Algae to power cars of the future?

  • Algae could be used in a new generation of biofuels
  • ExxonMobil could spend a total of $600m in research and development
  • Car makers want viable fuel sources

Scientists are looking into ways in which algae could be used in conjunction with petrol or diesel as a biofuel of the future.

The work is being carried out research company Synthetic Genomics and it will be funded by one of oil company ExxonMobil. The deal is worth a total of $600m, this includes $300 million in internal costs and potentially more than $300 million to Synthetic Genomics.

Dr Emil Jacobs, vice president of research and development at ExxonMobil Research and Engineering, said:'Meeting the world's growing energy demands will require a multitude of technologies and energy sources. We believe that biofuel produced by algae could be a meaningful part of the solution in the future if our efforts result in an economically viable, low net carbon emission transportation fuel.'

ExxonMobil has invested more than $1.5 billion over the past five years on activities that improve energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Car manufacturers are backing the research saying it is better for consumers to have a choice of traditional or alternative fuels including biofuel and electric power.

A spokesman from Peugeot said: 'Investing in other methods of powering vehicles is viable if the infrastructure is there or is going to be created. Incentives from governments are a good way of kick-starting these schemes and public awareness is key to obtain solutions.'

Biofuels have never properly taken off in the UK. They are far more common in other parts of the world - particularly in South America and Scandinavia where they make fuel from crops such as sugar beet and rapeseed.