There is a lot of excitement about alternative fuels and here are three reasons why:
- Most alternative fuels are not derived from rapidly depleting fossil fuel resources
- Alternative fuels can help America become more energy independent
- Most alternative fuels create fewer noxious emissions and greenhouse gasses.
With these attributes in mind, in 1992, the US Policy act identified eight fuels that would make reasonable alternatives to today’s petroleum-based fuels. Some of these are more experimental or not yet available. All have potential as full or partial alternatives to gasoline and diesel transportation fuels.
Ethanol is an alcohol-based alternative fuel that is made by distilling fermented crops such as corn, barley or wheat. Ethanol can be blended with gasoline to increase octane levels and lower emissions. Ethanol is already in use around the country. If you look closely next time you are filling your car up, you may notice a sticker on the pump that says “10% Ethanol.” A caution from Wolfchase of Bartlett, a local Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Ram dealer in Bartlett, TN. Some older vehicles may not be designed for ethanol mixes. Be sure to check with your dealer if you have any questions.
Natural gas is an alternative fuel that burns clean and is already available to people in many countries through private utilities. When used in natural gas vehicles, natural gas burns cleanly and produces far fewer emissions than gasoline or diesel.
Electricity can be used as an alternative fuel for battery powered electric and fuel-cell vehicles. Battery powered vehicles store power in batteries that are recharged by plugging the vehicle into a standard electrical source. Fuel-cell vehicles run on electricity that is produced through an electrochemical reaction that occurs when hydrogen and oxygen are combined. Fuel cells produce electricity without combustion or pollution.
At this point, electricity is only used to smaller power ground transportation vehicles. The energy requirements of large trucks and aircraft make electric power difficult due to the weight of the energy storage medium.
Hydrogen can be used several ways as transportation fuel. First, hydrogen is a combustible gas that can be used to power specially-built internal combustion engines. It is an ideal fuel to use because it burns cleanly with little emissions to speak of. Finally, hydrogen is the fuel of choice for fuel-cell vehicles. Fuel-cells generate electricity from petrochemical reactions and they are emission-free devices.
Propane, also called liquefied petroleum gas (LPG, is a byproduct of natural gas processing and petroleum refining. Like natural gas, propane is a popular alternative fuel. It fewer emissions than gasoline and there is also a highly-developed infrastructure for propane transport and distribution.
Biodiesel is an alternative fuel based on vegetable oils or animal fats, even those recycled after restaurants have used them for cooking. Vehicle engines can be converted to burn biodiesel in its pure form, and biodiesel can also be blended with petroleum diesel and used in unmodified engines. Biodiesel is safe, biodegradable, reduces air pollutants associated with vehicle emissions, such as particulate matter, carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons.
Methanol, also known as wood alcohol, can be used as an alternative fuel in flexible fuel vehicles that are designed to run on M85, a blend of 85 percent methanol and 15 percent gasoline. Unfortunately, M85 capable vehicles aren’t being manufactured anymore because few of the fuel producers geared up to sell M85. In the future we may see this changed.
P-Series fuels are a blend of combustible fuels. Generally, P-Series fuel is made up of ethanol, natural gas liquids and methyltetrahydrofuran (MeTHF, a solvent derived from biomass.) P-Series fuels are extremely versatile. They can be used alone or mixed with gasoline in any ratio by simply adding it to the tank.
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