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GM carries out new energy strategy to support sustainable development of automotive energy in China

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Beijing, China – General Motors Corp. is pursuing a global energy strategy that addresses global energy and climate issues and helps reduce the automobile’s reliance on petroleum by improving the energy efficiency of existing motor fuels and developing alternative energy and alternative propulsion systems. The development and commercialization of sustainable biofuels, particularly non-food based, next-generation cellulosic ethanol, is an important and leading component of GM’s new energy strategy.

On October 20, GM held a media workshop to share its world-leading technologies in sustainable biofuels with China. The workshop reinforces GM’s new energy strategy centered on energy security and diversity and supports China’s sustainable development of automotive energy and transportation systems.

In attendance at the workshop were executives from GM’s Global Energy Systems R&D I and one of GM’s partners in sustainable biofuels, Coskata Inc., as well as a Tsinghua University professor in charge of driving the university’s biofuels research. In addition to giving their assessment of China’s biofuels industry, they also shared advances in next-generation ethanol technologies and discussed the feasibility of commercialization of next-generation ethanol.

Andreas Lippert, director of GM’s Global Energy Systems Intelligence Center, said GM believes sustainable biofuels are the most feasible near-term solution among all alternative energy sources with the potential to displace petroleum.

Currently, China is the world’s third-largest ethanol producer, behind the U.S. and Brazil, with annual production of around 1 billion gallons. GM is leading the R&D and commercialization of sustainable biofuels worldwide, having produced more than 5 million flex-fuel cars and trucks that run on combinations of ethanol and gasoline. In the United States, GM is committed to making half its annual vehicle production flex-fuel capable by 2012.

David S. Chen, vice president of GM China Group, said, “According to the China Automotive Energy Research Center, GM has already begun successfully validating the automotive energy resource potential for sustainable biofuels in China.” The research center officially opened this April at Tsinghua University.

The development goal of CAERC is to provide support for China’s policy making on automotive energy strategies, technology roadmaps and management mechanisms. At the same time, CAERC is working with various organizations in academia and related industries in China to accelerate the development of the new energy automotive industry.

GM will continue to share with China the R&D results in the area of new energy from its research centers and partners around the world, including the R&D and market applications of next-generation, non-food based cellulosic ethanol.

Chen said China can produce cellulosic ethanol on marginal lands from wood waste, energy crops such as switchgrass and even garbage, and China is in a good position to benefit from the development of such sustainable biofuels.

GM sees China as being among the first markets and production sites for alternative propulsion systems. GM is committed to helping accelerate the development of new energy vehicles in China’s automotive industry through its advanced solutions. It will also leverage these solutions to provide more energy efficient and environmentally friendly products to Chinese vehicle users.

GM will continue to advance its strategy of “in China, with China, for China” to help China develop diverse automotive energy solutions and commercialize such energy solutions, Chen said.

In January and May of this year, GM announced the formation of strategic alliances with U.S.-based Coskata Inc. and Mascoma Corp., respectively, in the area of next-generation ethanol technologies. While GM is helping Coskata commercialize its cellulosic ethanol made from agricultural and municipal solid waste, it is working with Mascoma on rapid commercialization of second- and third-generation biofuels made from wood wastes.

Coskata will begin test production of cellulosic ethanol in mid-2009. At scale, the production cost of cellulosic ethanol will be below US$1 per gallon not counting the cost of building the plant. Coskata’s cellulosic ethanol process generates up to 7.7 times as much energy as what is used to make the fuel compared to conventional gasoline, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions by up to 96 percent depending on the feedstock used. Coskata’s first full-scale plant will be capable of producing 50 million to 100 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol annually in 2011.

Mascoma has started test producing ethanol with its “consolidated bioprocessing” cellulose-to-ethanol method, and expects to incorporate the technological breakthrough in its pilot plant in New York state by mid-2009. The CBP technology lowers costs by limiting additives and enzymes used in other biochemical processes.


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