by Tammy Hart
Estimates predict that we will have exhausted the world’s entire supply of fossil fuels within the next 50 years if we continue at the current rate of usage. With that in mind and with gasoline prices continuing to soar, we need to turn our attention to alternative sources of energy. Many varieties of alternative fuels are presently being tested, and some are already being used as replacements for gasoline. All fuels and fuel additives must be registered with the US EPA and are subject to health-effects regulations.
Currently, over 200,000 Autogas-or LPG-powered (mainly fleet) Alternative Fueled Vehicles operate in the United States . Some of these vehicles include school buses, taxis, and police cars. Autogas fuel stations outnumber all other alternative fuel stations, with over 4,000 locations nationwide. One of the advantages to using Autogas is it produces fewer emissions than regular gasoline.
Compressed natural gas (CNG) is another alternative fuel supplement available in almost every state. Almost 130,000 Natural Gas Vehicles (NGV’s) operate in the United States , with over 2 million worldwide. The United States has over 1,300 fueling stations. On average, natural gas costs approximately one-third less than conventional gasoline. Natural gas is one of the cleanest burning alternative fuels available and produces significantly fewer harmful emissions than regular gasoline.
Many believe that fuel-cell vehicles powered by hydrogen are the vehicles of the future, and that natural gas will be the primary source of hydrogen for fuel-cell vehicles since natural gas has the highest hydrogen-to-carbon ratio of any other hydrocarbon. The gas stations presently being used for natural gas could potentially be used in the future as hydrogen fueling sites. Some people fear that hydrogen is too explosive to use as a fuel, yet some experts argue that since it is so much lighter than gas it rises quickly away from its source, meaning that it is actually less volatile than regular gasoline.
To liquefy natural gas, impurities that would freeze, such as water, carbon dioxide, sulphur, and some of the heavier hydrocarbons, must be removed. This is done by cooling the gas to about -162 o C at atmospheric pressure, which condenses the methane to liquid form (Liquefied Natural Gas -LNG).
Ethanol (a liquid alcohol fuel that can be made from agricultural crops, waste from agriculture and forestry, wastepaper, and municipal solid waste) is another form of alternative fuel currently being used. Ethanol is the most commonly used alternative fuel in Flexible-Fueled Vehicles (FFVs). FFVs can use ethanol or gasoline in any combination of mixtures. When used with a mixture of 10% ethanol and 90% gasoline, it is no longer considered to be alternative fuel; it is generally known as Gasohol. More economical and less erosive to mechanical components is the combination of 85% ethanol and 15%, known as E85. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently awarded $1 million to recipients of its “Bridge to the Corn Ethanol Industry” initiative. The DOE initiative is designed to help expand domestic ethanol production by bringing together the corn ethanol industry with newer technologies that produce ethanol from agricultural forest wastes and other biomass. DOE stated that the benefits would include “reducing the cost of domestic ethanol production, creating new markets for U.S. corn growers, encouraging the production of a clean-burning alternative to gasoline, and helping to reduce the United States’ dependence on imported oil.”
Biodiesel is a domestic, renewable fuel for diesel engines derived from natural sources such as soybean oil, which makes it more environmentally friendly than standard petroleum diesel fuel. It is one of the most thoroughly tested alternative fuels on the market. Research on biodiesel includes studies performed by the U.S. Department of Energy & the U.S. Department of Agriculture, among others. Biodiesel can be purchased directly through retailers at fueling stations or through a distributor in your area, or you can purchase it directly from the supplier, blended to your preference.
A hybrid vehicle is any vehicle that combines two or more sources of power. A parallel hybrid has a fuel tank, which supplies gasoline to the engine. With a series hybrid, the gasoline engine turns a generator, and the generator can either charge the batteries or power an electric motor that drives the transmission. Therefore, the gasoline doesn’t directly power the vehicle. For more information on Hybrid emissions go to auto.howstuffworks.com/hybrid-car.htm.
By owning Alternative Fueled Vehicles, Hybrid Vehicles, or Flexible Fueled Vehicles, you will spend much less in powering your vehicle and you may also qualify for the “Clean-Fuel vehicle tax deduction” of up to $2000.00. Better hurry, though: under current legislation, vehicles purchased after 2006 will not be eligible for a deduction.