MicroFueler allows users to brew ethanol at home

By Kris Bevill | May 09, 2008
Web exclusive posted May 13, 2008 at 2:04 p.m. CST

A new product on the market will allow users to brew a batch of ethanol in the comfort of their own backyards. The E-Fuel100 MicroFueler was officially unveiled by E-Fuel Corp. on May 8 in New York. According to company cofounder and chief executive officer Tom Quinn, orders are already streaming in for the "at-home" brewing machine.

By using sugar as feedstock the MicroFueler can produce ethanol for less than $1 per gallon, Quinn said. "Taking advantage of NAFTA, Mexico's low-cost sugar can be delivered below market cost anywhere in the United States," he said. "Coupled with E-Fuel's exclusive Carbon Credit Coupon program, which provides cash rewards for consumers to produce ethanol, EFuel100 ethanol can be produced [for] well below $1 a gallon."

Ingredients needed to operate the MicroFueler include sugar, yeast, water and a standard household power supply. Another possible feedstock source is leftover alcohol from bars and restaurants. Quinn said any combination of waste alcohol can be dumped into the machine to produce ethanol, making the machine an interesting new possible source of revenue for bars and restaurants. Quinn told Ethanol Producer Magazine that the MicroFueler's patented micro-controlled fermentation process and non-combustion membrane distillation system make the machine as "safe and simple to use as a washing machine."

E-Fuel's MicroFueler is a portable unit which resembles a traditional gas pump. It features a LCD touch screen interface and a retractable pumping hose that extends 50 feet, allowing the user to situate the pump in a convenient location at their home without needing to place it directly beside a vehicle.

According to Quinn, the company has received a steady stream of orders daily since the product went on sale May 8, but added the actual number of items sold will not be available until a later date. The MicroFueler sells for $9,995 and requires a deposit at the time of order. E-Fuel is able to ship units to anywhere in the United States, China, India, Australia, Europe and Brazil. Quinn predicts they will sell thousands of units within the first year of operation.

It remains to be seen how the "do-it-yourself" ethanol concept will be viewed by the ethanol industry. Michelle Kautz, a spokeswoman for the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition, said the NEVC supports "all forms of ethanol by all means." However, she added that the coalition has yet to review the machine and can not make any further comments about the product at this time. A spokesman for the Renewable Fuels Association could not be reached for comment.

As ethanol producers know, U.S. EPA regulations require all ethanol-blended fuel sold to contain 85 percent or less ethanol. The MicroFueler produces strictly E100. Quinn pointed out that there is a U.S. federal law that allows property owners to produce and use E100 for their personal vehicles - so long as the amount produced does not exceed 10,000 gallons annually. For those customers who prefer ethanol-blended fuel, Quinn said they can blend it directly into their vehicle's tank with existing gasoline or they can blend the ethanol with water to dilute it.

E-Fuel co-founder Floyd Butterfield is a scientist who has been working on an at-home ethanol brewing kit for many years. In 2006 he conceived the design for the MicroFueler and in March 2007 Quinn signed on to create the company. Quinn said his experience in converging industry technology into consumer electronic products, coupled with Henry Ford's 1908 prediction that home ethanol would become the fuel of the future, inspired him to take part in the company. Quinn, who is also creator of the motion sensor technology used in Nintendo's Wii gaming system, provided the funding for the privately-held company.