All about Alternative Car Fuels

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Fuels made of Renewable Raw Materials

There are one billion vehicles in the world today. In the US, most of petroleum in 2009 was used for transportation. Petroleum-powered vehicles produced more than 60 percents of the carbon monoxide and approximately 20 percents of greenhouse gases.

Rising oil prices and environmental impact of fossil-fuel based vehicles is forcing many car manufacturers and governments to search for alternative car fuels, especially fuels made of renewable raw materials.

Alternatives to Gasoline and Diesel

Biodiesel can be used alone or mixed with petroleum diesel

There is a range of already running vehicles using different types of fuel, but not all of them are sustainable. For example, electric cars are considered good environmentally sound alternative. They run on batteries, which produce no emissions and are considered clean alternative to gasoline. But, electricity to charge batteries is mostly produced by nuclear or oil powered generators, so electric cars cannot be considered as using renewable car fuel. All other alternatives, such as Compressed Natural Gas, Natural Gas-to-Liquid (diesel), Liquefied Natural Gas and Liquefied Petroleum Gas are all fossil-fuel based fuels.

Renewable Fuels

Really promising alternative car fuels are those using renewable raw materials.

  1. Biodiesel
    Biodiesel is a fuel produced from soybeans, used restaurant grease or other renewable resources. It can be used alone or mixed with petroleum diesel. Its potential lies in the fact that it can be used to power diesel engines without costly modifications. Biodiesel is non-toxic, biodegradable, simple to use and burns without creating sulfur. The opposition to biodiesel claims that soybeans should be better used as food.
  2. Ethanol
    Ethanol is currently the most popular alternative car fuel that is made of renewable raw materials. It can be inexpensively extracted from sugar and starch from various crops such as sugar cane, sugar beets or grains. There are currently 5.7 million vehicles in the world powered by pure ethanol and 25.1 million so-called flexible-fuel vehicles (running on both gasoline and ethanol.) Ethanol is gaining support among manufacturers of alternative fuel vehicles, because it runs on renewable material and it produces relatively small amount of greenhouse gasses.
    Current popularity of ethanol-powered vehicles also comes from the fact that most gasoline-powered cars can run on a mix of up to 15 percents of ethanol. With minimal redesign, standard gasoline-powered vehicles can run on 85 percents or even 100 percent ethanol. As with biodiesel, the opposition to ethanol powered vehicles has problem with using food crops to power vehicles when huge percentage of world population is malnourished.
  3. Fuel Cells powered by Hydrogen
    Fuel cell vehicles use fuel cells to produce electricity to power electric car motor. Fuel cells create electricity from hydrogen and oxygen from the ambient air. Hydrogen-powered cars produce very little carbon dioxide and other polluting gasses, but the hydrogen currently used to power fuel cell cars is produced mostly from fossil fuels or from methane. While the price of fuel cells keeps going down, fuel cell vehicles are not a sustainable alternative until hydrogen as fuel can be produced from renewable sources.

There is a healthy competition between vehicle manufacturers that are trying to grab the segment of the market looking for a vehicle running on alternative car fuels, especially those using renewable raw materials for fuel.

The competition fuels a lot of advanced research on alternative fuels, but there are still many obstacles to overcome, technical, economic and environmental, before we can wean ourselves from fossil fuels.

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There is lots of advanced research on cars running on alternative car fuels from renewable raw materials