Besides the taxi driver’s favourite of a VW Santana and the proliferation of China’s own brand cheep-and-cheerful cars (like the QQ), it’s hard not to notice that Yunnan roads are knee deep in SUVs (with the occasional Humvee thrown in). As in the West, the most vigorous challenge that most of these all-terrain vehicles will see is a multi-storey car park.
However, the Yunnan SUV may not be the tree-huggers’ bane for much longer if Yunnan’s biodiesel plan works out. It seems that 25,000 hectares of land are to be planted with jatropha curcas trees (also known as the “Black vomit nut“, please don’t eat it) which can be used to make automotive fuel.
According to Wikipedia, biodiesel seems like great stuff: As a fuel, pretty much the same performance as petro-diesel, but without the nasty emissions. And diesel engines require little or no modification to use it.
However, there are several drawbacks. It turns to jelly below 4.4 degrees centigrade (40 F), and it is “hydrophilic” (bonds with water?), and that’s bad… Water in the biodiesel means more smoke, harder starting, less power, corrosion of vital fuel system components and other unhelpful effects.
From the Shanghai Daily article:
The province still has four million hectares of barren hills, 1.2 million hectares of which are located in the dry and warm valleys of the Jinsha, Lancang and Honghe rivers, where jatropha curcas trees can grow well.
Yunnan began planting jatropha curcas trees, originally native to America, in the 1980s and has conducted research on extracting oil from the trees ever since.
Zhang Wudi, head of the bio-fuel research lab of Yunnan Province, said that they have mastered the techniques of extracting the bio-diesel…
Cost of such diesel oil can reach 5.4 yuan (US$0.67) per kilogram and its market price could be even higher, said Zhang. Currently the price of petrochemical diesel oil is only about 4.3 yuan.
The price of petrol is currently over RMB 5 and rumored to rise to RMB 8, diesel is also on the rise, so Black Vomit Nut fuel could look attractive pretty soon. In a few years time SUV drivers could be the pioneers in environmentally friendly driving.
Source: Shanghai Daily [English]