Chocolate to power our cars? Not so crazy an idea after all

“Instead of using car petrol, maybe I can use a special type of chocolate.”

This suggestion, made by schoolchildren to Alok Sharma MP as part of the National Grid’s Voices for a Green Future competition ahead of COP26, is not as outlandish as it seems. The waste residues from chocolate production can be processed into a fuel to power cars as well as other forms of transport, while also providing benefits for rural communities in developing countries.

Cocoa waste fact sheet
  • Globally each year, we produce around 5.6 million tonnes (Mt) of cocoa beans, which we use to make chocolate and other products.
  • This produces around 50 Mt of waste, as the cocoa beans only account for about 10% of the cocoa fruit.
  • From this waste, we can extract around 1.2 Mt of ethanol, which can be used as fuel.
  • 1.2 Mt of ethanol could be used to drive 12,289,209 miles, which is 494 times around the world.
  • Using ethanol derived from cocoa waste in place of petrol would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 2.6 Mt, the equivalent of taking 1.2 million cars off the road in the UK.
  • Most cocoa is produced in Africa, Central and Southern America, and Indonesia, where it is an important income source and provides employment opportunities for local communities.
  • Using the waste from cocoa to produce fuels like ethanol can provide an additional income for people and communities in the developing world, as well as providing a solution to the environmental problem of waste disposal.

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