Auto Parts Library: Gasoline Alternatives

Gasoline Alternatives

Alternative fuels are any fuels derived from a source other than oil. With the rising cost of gasoline and the dependence on importing oil to fuel transportation for commercial and personal use, there is a call for alternative fuels. Alternatives fuels may provide an answer to oil imports, reduce dangerous emissions, and decrease our carbon footprint to import and deliver gasoline nationwide. Some gasoline alternatives come from domestic sustainable resources such as plants, vegetable oils, or animal fats. Alternative fuels release less pollution, and produced here in the US more economically than importing oil. The purchase of vehicles and other products that use alternative fuel may also save consumers money through tax incentives. Bio-fuels, solar power, electric, and hydrogen are four alternative fuels that are gaining interest for use in automobiles.

Bio-fuels

Biofuels seem to be the new buzzword when speaking of alternative fuels. However, ethanol was the fuel Henry Ford first planned to use in his Model T. Early diesel engines ran on peanut oil until petroleum deposits provided a cheap source of gasoline and diesel. With the increasing costs of oil production and the understanding that there is not an endless supply of fossil fuels, interest returns to alternative fuels sources. Biofuel production involves a fermentation process that uses heat to break down the plants into usable byproducts such as ethanol. Ethanol is a biofuel that has been in use since the production of the first automobile in various degrees.

Today, Seventy-five percent of the gasoline purchased throughout the US is a blend of gasoline and ethanol. Ethanol is not used in a pure form to fuel today’s automobiles. Common blends are E10 and E85. Most gasoline is an E10 blend of ten percent ethanol to ninety percent gasoline. Any make or model vehicle can efficiently run on E10 blends. E85 blends can only be used to fuel a modified vehicle known as FFVs (flexible fuel vehicles).

The benefits of biofuels include cleaner air and environment due to the reduction in emissions and other pollutants by nearly ninety percent. The production of biofuels benefits the economy by providing jobs while supporting the farm communities needed to grow corn and other crops used in the production of biofuels. Producing biofuels domestically, helps reduce our dependence on oil imports at a time when oil prices continue to climb and national security is an ongoing concern.

 
Solar Power

Solar power as a gasoline alternative has some advantages. However, capturing and storing sufficient solar power can be a challenge. To access solar power that will be available when needed, a solar powered vehicle depends on a series of photovoltaic cells. These cells are expensive and current designs for solar powered vehicles are limited. As new designs and research continue to improve the development and production of photovoltaic cells, these costs will continue to decrease. Solar powered vehicles have the advantage of being free of emissions normally produced by gasoline-powered engines. Fewer parts also mean fewer repairs. No fuel costs are included in a solar powered vehicle as long as there is sunshine. A popular option is a hybrid vehicle that depends on a combination of solar power and gasoline when solar power is not available.


Electric

Another fuel alternative that is regaining in popularity calls for the redesign of electric powered vehicles. Electric vehicles were the norm in the early 1900s. It is estimated that at its height, there were fifty-thousand electric vehicles on the road. Today there are an estimated four thousand electric vehicles on the roads throughout the US. As consumers consider fuel alternatives, more are expected to consider electric cars or electric hybrid vehicles. Electric cars have the advantage of not contributing to pollution. Fuel costs are lower than a comparable gasoline powered vehicle and there is no need for oil changes or tune-ups. Presently, electric vehicles cost more than a gasoline powered vehicle, but the initial cost may be offset by lower maintenance cost as well as possible tax incentives.


Hydrogen

Hydrogen is a clean burning fuel alternative. Producing hydrogen is done without the production of greenhouse emissions and burning hydrogen does not contribute to exhaust pollution now a problem with gasoline engines. Producing hydrogen domestically increases national security by reducing reliance on oil imports from unstable nations. Economically the job force created by positions needed to produce hydrogen fuel and hydrogen capable vehicles can fuel the economy. A Hydrogen powered vehicle's only emissions from burning hydrogen fuel are water. Hydrogen powered vehicles would lower pollution and reduce smog and health risk for consumers in areas now often hindered by unsafe air quality. Hydrogen and other gasoline alternatives are continually being developed and tested. Consumer demand and acceptance will help shape the future for transportation and fuel use.


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