Biofuel technologies: an overview?

Biofuel technologies overview

This data-file provides an overview of the 3.5Mbpd global biofuels industry, across its main components: corn ethanol, sugarcane ethanol, vegetable oils, palm oil, waste oils (renewable diesel), cellulosic biomass, algal biofuels, biogas and landfill gas.


For each biofuel technology, we describe the production process, advantages and drawbacks; plus we quantify  the market size, typical costs, CO2 intensities and yields per acre.

While biofuels can be lower carbon than fossil fuels, they are not zero-carbon, hence continued progress is needed to improve both their economics and their process-efficiencies.

Our long-term estimate is that the total biofuels market could reach 20Mboed (chart below),  however this would require another 100M of land and oil prices would need to rise to $125/bbl to justify this switch.

The data-file also contains an overview of sustainable aviation fuels, summarizing the opportunity set, then estimating the costs and CO2 intensities of different options.

Vehicle costs: cars, SUVs, hybrids, EVs and hydrogen?

Costs per mile of SUVs hybrids EVs and hydrogen cars

This data-file quantifies the cost per mile of vehicle ownership for different categories of vehicles. Our methodology looks across the prices of 1,200 second hand vehicles, to correlate how the re-sale value of each make and model degrades per mile that has accumulated on its odometer (chart above).


Hybrids and basic passenger cars are most economical. Trucks and SUVs are 2x more costly. EVs are another 25% more costly again, and will have lost c60% of their value after 100,000 miles. Hydrogen cars have the highest costs and will have lost over 90% of their value after 100,000 miles (chart below).

Underlying data are shown in the input tab across ten makes and models, to see how the re-sale value of each vehicle degrades with mileage. This may help you appraise what a particular second hand purchase “should” cost (example below) if you are among the many non-drivers considering a vehicle purchase as a result of the COVID crisis.

COVID-19 Impacts on Global Oil Demand?

covid 19 impact on global oil demand

The impacts of COVID-19 on global oil demand are extremely uncertain. However, this model aims to help you bound the uncertainties, disaggregating 2020 oil demand in the developed and the developing world, as a function of some simplifying assumptions: GDP declines, flight cancellations, travel reductions and the pace of the crisis’s resolution.

Please note this model has been superceded by our more granular estimates, here. The model may still be useful  to stress test influences on quarterly oil demand due to different COVID-related variables.

Explaining US gasoline?

Gasoline demand cause

This data-file breaks down US gasoline demand, as a function of vehicle miles traveled (urban and rural), GDP growth, gasoline prices and fuel economy across the US vehicle fleet. It contains monthly data on each variable, going back to 2002, so correlations can be explored.

Gasoline demand is modestly slower-than-expected in 2019, rising just +1.0% YoY, which is above the prior 15-year trend for 0.4% pa growth, but below the 1.8% expected basesd on regressions to fuel prices and GDP.

One cause is urban vehicle miles driven, where growth has slowed, defying historical correlations with GDP (strong) and gasoline prices (reasonable). Structural explanations could include the rapid rise of alternative vehicles (e.g., e-scooters), ride-sharing and policy decisions.  

Please download the file to view the data or test your own regressions.

Aerial Vehicles Re-Shape Transportation Costs?

costs per passenger-kilometer for transportation

This model calculates the costs per passenger-kilometer for transportation, based on mileage, load factors, fuel prices (oil and electricity), fuel-economy, vehicle costs and maintenance costs.

Ground level vehicles are assessed using data from around the industry, on gasoline, electric, owned and taxi vehicles.

Aerial vehicles could compete with taxis as early as 2025. By the 2030s, their costs can be 60% below the level of car ownership.

This model shows all of our input assumptions and calculations.

Vehicles: fuel economy and energy efficiency?

Vehicle fuel economy and energy efficiency

Vehicle fuel economy and energy efficiency are quantified in this data-file, looking across different transportation types: cars, trucks, buses, hybrids, electric vehicles (EVs), hydrogen cars, planes, trains, helicopters, plus other smaller vehicles such as bicycles, scooters, motor-cycles and simply ‘walking’.


Our numbers are built up for each category, in kWh-per-mile, miles-per-gallon, energy efficiency percentages and ultimate CO2 intensity per mile of travel. In turn, these numbers are built up from physics calculations, enthalpy calculations and technical disclosures of underlying companies.

A good rule of thumb is that a passenger car achieves 20-40mpg and 15-20% efficiency, depending on its size; a bus or truck achieves 5-10 vehicle miles per gallon, but this is equivalent to up 50-250 passenger-equivalent miles per gallon, because of a higher load factor; and likewise a plane might achieve 0.2-0.5 vehicle miles per gallon, translating into 50-70 passenger miles per gallon, when you think of a plane as just a flying bus.

Electrification generally offers a c4x gain in vehicle fuel economy and energy efficiency, especially for ground-level vehicles, increasing efficiency from c15-20% on conventional oil-powered vehicles to c60-80% on electric vehicles. Hybrids and hydrogen also yield modest efficiency improvements.

Smaller vehicles are surprisingly exciting. This is just physics, but a bicycle achieves an effective fuel economy of 1,000 miles per gallon-equivalent, which is about 8x better than an electric vehicle, and even 3x better than walking (note here). Moreover, an emerging class of electric transportation technologies is fast, convenient and yet achieve 4-120x efficiency gains per passenger mile (note here).

Further data dis-aggregating the CO2 intensity per mile of electric vehicles versus ICE cars, depending on how they are powered, is linked here.

Copyright: Thunder Said Energy, 2019-2023.