Alternative and Economical Fuels

November 16th, 2010

Ethanol is an alcohol-based fuel made by fermenting and distilling starch crops, such as corn. It can also be made from “cellulosic biomass” such as trees and grasses. The use of ethanol can reduce our dependence upon foreign oil and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.Biodiesel is a form of diesel fuel manufactured from vegetable oils, animal fats, or recycled restaurant greases. It is safe, biodegradable, and produces less air pollutants than petroleum-based diesel. It can be used in its pure form (B100) or blended with petroleum diesel. Common blends include B2 (2 biodiesel), B5, and B20. B2 and B5 can be used safely in most diesel engines. However, most vehicle manufacturers do not recommend using blends greater than B5, and engine damage caused by higher blends is not covered by some manufacturer warranties. Check with your owner’s manual or vehicle manufacturer to determine the right blend for your vehicle.Natural gas is a fossil fuel comprised mostly of methane, is one of the cleanest burning alternative fuels. It can be used in the form of compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquefied natural gas (LNG) to fuel cars and trucks. Dedicated natural gas vehicles are designed to run on natural gas only, while dual-fuel or bi-fuel vehicles can also run on gasoline or diesel. Dual-fuel vehicles allow users to take advantage of the wide-spread availability of gasoline or diesel but use a cleaner, more economical alternative when natural gas is available. Since natural gas is stored in high-pressure fuel tanks, dual-fuel vehicles require two separate fueling systems, which take up passenger/cargo space.Propane or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) is a clean-burning fossil fuel that can be used to power internal combustion engines. LPG-fueled vehicles produce fewer toxic and smog-forming air pollutants. LPG is usually less expensive than gasoline, and most LPG used in U.S. comes from domestic sources. No LPG-fueled light-duty passenger cars or trucks have been produced commercially in the U.S. since the 2004 model year, but gasoline and diesel vehicles can be retrofitted to run on LPG in addition to conventional fuel. The LPG is stored in high-pressure fuel tanks, so separate fuel systems are needed in vehicles powered by both LPG and a conventional fuel such as gasoline.Hydrogen (H2) is being aggressively explored as a fuel for passenger vehicles. It can be used in fuel cells to power electric motors or burned in internal combustion engines (ICEs). It is an environmentally friendly fuel that has the potential to dramatically reduce our dependence on imported oil, but several significant challenges must be overcome before it can be widely used.

Entry Filed under: Alternative Fuels


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