Which are the alternative fuels for cars that could replace gasoline?
Do you know which is the commonly used fuel in automobiles? It’s petroleum fuels. You could have known the importance of fossil fuel in the world economy. Uncontrolled utilization depletes the deposit of fossil fuels.
It’s estimated that, if the utilization continues as fast as what we do now would cause to deplete all fossil fuels in another 20 years.
Apart from petroleum, there are a few fuels and alternative energy sources that can be used in vehicles. We can have a look at alternative fuels for cars here.
Why do we need alternative fuels in cars?
Why would invest a lot to find alternate energy sources and fuels in cars? There are proven and matured technologies to extract energy from fossil fuels and IC engines have been used in vehicles for a long.
Petroleum fuels are common in the automotive industry. Technologies to extract petroleum and its combustion are well established.
Then, why do we need alternative fuels?
Global warming due to the emission of gases (Nitrogen Dioxide, Carbon Dioxide, Carbon Monoxide, etc. ) from automobiles, environmental pollution, depletion of fossil fuels, etc. make alternative fuels in vehicles important.
Let’s see a quick statistics. 1 liter of Petrol emits 2.3 Kg of Carbon dioxide when it burnt. It is not a low value. 2.3 Kg of Carbon dioxide!!
How does it impact the environment? Greenhouse gases increase the temperature and the increased temperature disturbs the balance of the environment.
Desertification, melting of icebergs, sea-level rise, etc. are a few negative impacts of global warming.
Disadvantages of fossil fuels
- Fossil fuels are a non-renewable source of energy which depletes and are not produced as fast as the rate of depletion
- It takes really long to form fossil fuels
- They are air pollutants – Combustion of fossil fuels emits greenhouse gases causes air pollution
- Global warming – as a result of greenhouse gas emission, atmospheric temperature increases (how?).
Benefits of alternative fuels for cars
We have a list of disadvantages of fossil fuels and now let’s check a few benefits of alternative fuels
- Alternative fuels are a replacement for conventional fuels
- They cause less pollution
- They are renewable sources of energy
- Alternative fuels increase energy security by providing an opportunity to produce it in every country
Alternative fuels have disadvantages also (alternative fuels are costly, technology is not matured, comparatively low energy density, etc.)
Types of alternative fuels for cars
Alternative fuels for cars that could have used are listed below. A short explanation of each fuel is also presented.
These examples of alternative fuels for cars are tested and proven technology in the automotive industry. Here is a list of top 9 alternative energy sources for a vehicle.
Biodiesel is a renewable source of energy produced from veritable oil, animal fat, etc. They are produced by chemically reacting lipids with an alcohol producing fatty acid esters.
Diesel engines can use biodiesel alone or blended with petroleum fuels.
Methanol is an alternative fuel that is less expensive to produce for internal combustion engine vehicles. Many counties use methanol as a fuel alternative in race cars.
Similar to biodiesel, methanol can also be used alone and blended with petroleum fuels.
Ethanol or ethyl alcohol is an alternative fuel for cars that made up from sugarcane or corn. With relatively high energy density, ethanol fuel is a successful replacement for fossil fuels.
Gasoline gallon equivalency of ethanol is approximately 1.5. That is 1.5 unit volume of ethanol can replace 1 unit volume of gasoline in terms of energy.
Ethanol blended fuels are widely used in Brazil, the United States, and Europe. Bioethanol is being produced converting carbon-based agricultural feedstock such as sugar cane, bagasse, grain, barley, potatoes.
#4 Compressed air
Another source of energy compressed air. The energy density of compressed air is low and its pressure falls as air is taken from the tank.
A pneumatic motor which works on expanding compressed air is used to convert the energy to mechanical energy – either linear motion or rotation. Even though compressed air results no air pollution, its inefficiency in conversion and low energy density make it less competitive.
Regenerative braking can be used in compressed air vehicle to recuperate the energy that would have dissipated as heat during braking.
Hydrogen is a fuel that can be used in two ways in a vehicle. Hydrogen can be burned in an internal combustion engine to power the car to move or it can be used with oxygen in a fuel cell to run an electric vehicle.
Honda Clarity, Toyota Mirai are a few examples of hydrogen-powered vehicles. Hydrogen fuel is expensive and highly inflammable. So they are not popular in the automotive industry.
Which is the best and promising alternative energy source for a vehicle?
Electric energy is another form of energy used in a vehicle. Is electricity fuel? Can we consider it as one of the alternative fuels for cars? Yes. We can.
Electricity is considered as an alternative fuel under energy polity act of 1992. The Electric vehicle has zero/low tailpipe emission. An electric vehicle is a vehicle that uses one or more electric motors for propulsion.
As we know, EVs are not limited to road transportation. Electric aircraft Impulse 2 revolved around the earth only using electric energy.
Electric vehicles are classified into Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV), Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) and Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV).
The pure battery-electric vehicle uses only electricity as the source of energy and they do not emit any gases. Battery Electric Vehicles are environmental friendly(?).
Hybrid Electric Cars uses one or more sources of energy along with electricity. The popular combination is Electric motor + Internal Combustion Engine.
Battery capacity, reduced range, time to get battery charged, etc. are some drawbacks of the electric vehicle. Tesla motors manufacture high end and affordable electric cars with the largest range.
Since electric cars started manufacturing worldwide by automotive manufacturers such as Volkswagen, BMW, etc. increases their popularity.
You can read the list of world top Electric Car manufactures. I would say that electric vehicles are not rare. Over 2 million electric cars were sold in 2017.
#7 Natural gas
Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) and Liquified Natural Gas (LPG) are fuels used in a vehicle. Natural gas is a mixture of gases which are rich in hydrocarbon and generally occurring underground in association with petroleum and can be used in the vehicle.
Existing gasoline-powered vehicles may be converted to a natural gas vehicle or they can be used as bi-fuel (petrol and CNG) vehicle.
Due to less emission of environmental polluting gases, CNG vehicles are popular in cities such as Delhi.
Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) is a mixture of Propane and Butane. Some variants of natural gas are primarily propane.
So they are called propane fuel. Liquefied petroleum gas which is commonly called Autogas is the third most popular automotive fuel in the world.
It is one of the alternative fuels for cars. Carbon dioxide emission of autogas is around 15% less than that of petrol.
#9 Fuel cell
A fuel cell is an electrochemical cell that converts chemical energy from a fuel into electricity through an electrochemical reaction of hydrogen fuel with oxygen or another oxidizing agent (Wiki).
A continuous supply of fuel is necessary for a fuel cell to generate electricity. The generated electricity is used for vehicle propulsion.
Why fuel cells are important? Fuel cells emit water as bi-product of energy conversion.
Alternative fuel vehicles are important to reduce environmental pollution and global warming. In addition, to tackle the reduction of non-renewable fossil fuels fuel alternatives are necessary.
Electricity is another source of energy for vehicles. It is one of the alternative fuels for cars.
More vehicle manufacturers go for the electric vehicle rather than using fuels in the car. We would say, electric vehicles are super clean, at least at vehicle end (keep aside the process of electricity generation).
So, I expect a bright future for electric cars than other alternative fuel cars. What would you think?