Which are the alternative fuels for cars that could replace gasoline in vehicle?
Are you aware of the most commonly used fuel in automobiles? You can guess it easily. The answer is petroleum fuels. The fossil fuels are highly significant in the global economy. The worlds’ energy requirements are mostly meet by these petroleum fuels.
Do we have enough fuels for the future use?
Unrestrained consumption of these fuels leads to the depletion of fossil fuel reserves. We have been using them continuously since the technologies were developed to extract the fuel economically.
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 in this post.
Why do we need alternative fuels for cars?
Why would invest a lot of effort to find the alternate energy sources and fuels for cars? Lets’ check out.
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 a necessity.
Let’s see a quick statistic. 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!! Since fuel weighs less than a kilogram per litre, it is interesting to see how the weight of emissions is multiplied by the addition of oxygen.
How does it affect the sustainability of the clean 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 an alternative fuel commonly used in automobiles. 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.
Unlike petroleum fuels, biodiesel is more environmentally friendly and helps reduce carbon emissions. Utilizing biodiesel as a fuel option promotes sustainability and reduces dependence on finite fossil fuel resources.
Diesel engines can use biodiesel alone or blended with petroleum fuels.
Methanol is another alternative fuel that can be used in vehicles. It is less expensive to produce for IC engine vehicles. It is a liquid alcohol fuel produced from a variety of feedstocks, including natural gas, coal, biomass, or even carbon dioxide.
Methanol can be used in internal combustion engines either directly or as a blend with gasoline.
Advantages: Methanol has several advantages, including high octane rating, good combustion properties, and lower emissions compared to gasoline. It can be produced from diverse feedstocks and offers potential for reduced dependence on petroleum-based fuels.
Flexibility: Methanol can be used in existing gasoline vehicles with certain modifications or as part of flexible-fuel vehicles (FFVs). FFVs are designed to run on blends of methanol and gasoline in different ratios.
Infrastructure: Methanol infrastructure, such as refueling stations, is currently less common compared to gasoline or diesel. However, it can be addressed by establishing dedicated methanol refueling stations or by integrating it into existing fueling infrastructure.
Safety: Methanol has specific safety considerations due to its flammable nature and toxicity if ingested or inhaled. Proper handling, storage, and refueling procedures are necessary to ensure safe usage.
Many counties use methanol as a fuel alternative in race cars.
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. So, it is a widely used alternative fuel for vehicles.
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.
Ethanol can be blended with gasoline to create ethanol-gasoline blends, such as E10 (10% ethanol and 90% gasoline) or E85 (85% ethanol and 15% gasoline).
#4 Compressed air
Another source of energy for vehicles is the compressed air.
This emerging alternative energy source can be used as a fuel for vehicles. 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 makes 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.
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. Electric vehicles get into the automotive market these days more with proven advantages and superior performance. An Electric vehicle that uses one or more electric motors for propulsion has zero/low tailpipe emission.
As we know, the EVs are not limited to the 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.
Many established automotive giants such as Volkswagen, BMW, etc. also started manufacturing electric vehicles worldwide.
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.
If you are interested in doing electric vehicle related research work, these topics will help you.
#7 Natural gas
Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) and Liquified Natural Gas (LPG) are other 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.
Since it emits less 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).
Fuel cells are innovative devices that convert the chemical energy of a fuel, such as hydrogen, into electricity through an electrochemical process. Unlike traditional combustion engines, fuel cells operate silently and produce no harmful emissions.
They are highly efficient, with some types of fuel cells reaching energy conversion rates of over 50%.
A fuel cell converts chemical energy into electricity through an electrochemical reaction of hydrogen fuel with oxygen or another oxidizing agent (Wiki).
Fuel cells have a wide range of applications. In transportation, fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) offer a clean and sustainable alternative to conventional cars, with long driving ranges and fast refueling times. Fuel cells are also utilized in stationary power generation, providing reliable and environmentally friendly electricity for homes, businesses, and even entire communities.
Why fuel cells are important?
Fuel cells do not emit any harmful gases and they emit water as biproduct of energy conversion.
Biogas is a renewable fuel produced through the anaerobic digestion of organic matter such as agricultural waste, food waste, or sewage. It primarily consists of methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2), with trace amounts of other gases.
Biogas can be upgraded to remove impurities and increase the methane content, making it suitable for use as a vehicle fuel. Biogas vehicles typically require specialized fuel systems to handle its composition.
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?