Motor Transport was launched in 1905 as Motor Traction. Here we look back on a story published 100 years ago.


Progress of Investigations by the Fuel Research Board.

On Thursday, July 15th, the Director of Fuel Research – Sir George Bielby – invited representatives of the press to attend a meeting of the Scientific and Industrial Research Department to receive an account of the progress made by the Board into the problems connected with alternative fuels to petrol for motor transport purposes.

In 1919, the world’s production of crude petroleum was seventeen and a half thousand million gallons, and although the United States contributed about 74% its consumption exceeded this quantity. The quantities of petrol imported into this country in 1919 was 200 million gallons and the estimate for this year is 250 million gallons. The total production of benzole from gas and coke in 1919 was about twenty million gallons.

The vegetable materials growable in this country from which alcohol could be made are grain, potatoes, and mangolds.

The chief reasons that the production of alcohol in any considerable quantities from vegetable material grown in the United Kingdom is not economically viable are: (1). insufficient acreage. (2). The high cost of cultivation. (3). The high cost of manufacture. (4). Most suitable raw materials are also important foodstuffs.

If a cheap and simple process were available, and could be applied commercially on a very large scale, tropical vegetation would afford a practically inexhaustible reservoir of power alcohol, but no such process exists, even in the laboratory, though steps have been taken for the initiation of research work in this direction.