Now more than ever the world is looking to limit its negative impact on the environment. Pollution levels are rising and cars are one of the main culprits. Enter alternative fuels, which allow vehicles to be more environmentally friendly. Here is the Friday Five on our favourite alternative fuels.
The most famous and increasingly common alternative fuel in use. The advantages of electric cars include a considerable reduction in emissions and empowering a country to become less reliant on foreign oil. However they aren’t perfect because they need regular recharging, but having it in hybrid form is the next best step to tackling car pollution. Lots of car manufacturers are producing both 100% electric and hybrid vehicles that are growing in popularity for regular people and businesses. What’s more, the UK government are endorsing them with plug in grants which will reduce overall expenses for drivers, especially if they find a cheap car insurance quote.
This fuel is a combination of alcohol (usually ethanol) and gasoline. Ethanol is made from a variety of crops, most notably corn, which does risk having a negative affect on supplies and prices, resulting in inflation of corn based products. However this hasn’t stopped the USA and Brazil being the largest producers and users of ethanol fuel. Cars that run on this aren’t easily available because special engines are needed to cope with the corrosive liquid. So there are a few speed bumps in the way to having this fully commercial, but the notion of possibly one day buying a bottle of alcohol and pouring it into your car is quite entertaining. (WARNING! Don’t do that.)
Similar to bioalcohol, biodiesel is diesel blended with vegetable oils or animal fats. The benefit of this fuel is that it can already be used in regular diesel engines. Due to this great attribute, a large number of companies like Virgin Trains, Disneyland and Volkswagen are using this fuel in some of their transport vehicles. Sounds like a winning alternative fuel but one of the main difficulties with it is if it gets too cool, it can crystallise and gel. Therefore countries with naturally cooler temperatures would need vehicles to be fitted with extra components to make the engines compatible.
This fuel is highly eco-friendly as earth has a plentiful supply of it and when it’s used in an engine, minimal pollution occurs. So why aren’t more hydrogen vehicles being used commercially? The research and development that goes into making the engine and fuel cells is extremely technical and there are still many obstacles to overcome. So much so that Ford and Renault cancelled all production into hydrogen cars, while General Motors have moved their developments onto the back burner as it costs too much. This is quite a shame as NASA have been launching spacecrafts with hydrogen engines for years. Imagine a car reaching speeds of 0 to infinity and beyond!
5. Liquid Nitrogen
Now this fuel isn’t commercially available, but it looks so cool in science experiments! The engine heats liquid Nitrogen causing the pressurised gas to propel a car forward. The benefits of this alternative fuel are somewhat similar to electric vehicles which have low emissions, except they wouldn’t need batteries to operate and re-charge. However it seems unlikely this will be used long-term because, as with some other alternative fuels, a large amount of energy goes into production. Also the safety risks are extremely high due to nitrogen possibly escaping which removes oxygen from a room with poor ventilation and the requirement for specific, pressure tank storage.