Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

What's the process to convert wine into fuel?

        Auto | Biofuels

How to Convert Wine into Fuel

Unlike many people who drink wine, so far, cars that run on bioethanol don't show a preference for red or white, type of grape or even country of origin. Most of the varieties converted to fuel have one thing in common: They are leftovers. Companies such as Green Fuels, who prepared the biofuel for Prince Charles' car, use wine produced at vineyards that can't be sold for consumption. Quotas set by the European Union, for example, limit the amount a winery can produce, and surplus amounts can be sold off for use in alternative fuels [source: English].

Making fuel from something safe and enjoyable to drink is a process similar to that of making grain alcohol or other super-strong moonshine concoctions. If the grapes have already been fermented into wine, the wine can be further distilled by boiling. High heats reduce the volume of liquid and preserve the more potent alcohol content to produce a form of ethanol. In the case of the Prince's Aston Martin, the fuel was about 85 percent ethanol combined with 15 percent petrol, or gasoline [source: Sample].

Although some contend that any car can be converted to run on wine-fuel, there aren't many out there to confirm this theory. Aside from the Aston Martin and a prototype, 270-horsepower model designed by Lotus, there aren't many highly publicized case studies to support widespread bioethanol production. Motors and engines for household machines also use the distilled wine- and even beer-powered technology, but this is a bit limited in scope, too [source: Stone].

Some inventors are finding ways to distill at home, which is a great way to use up waste and surplus from wine- and beer-making, but there is an issue with flammability, as has always been a risk since the days of making homebrew moonshine. Distilleries can be highly, highly flammable. Nonetheless, in the United States, it's legal to distill thousands of gallons of alcohol fuel on your own property as long as you secure a permit and promise to produce it in undrinkable, or denatured, form [source: Carpenter].

Although the fuel produced for Prince Charles's car was said to be more expensive than petroleum-based fuel, though not prohibitively so, the fact remains -- it takes a lot of grapes to make wine and even more distilled wine to make bioethanol. So let's toast to the idea and hope that someone comes up with a brilliant method for mass-producing wine fuel, or what could be called "vino-line."


More to Explore