Alternative Fuel For Cars
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UPDATED: Nov 15, 2020
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It’s been said for years that gasoline will at some point in the not too distant future end, although it seems we still have some more to go. So, preparing for the time we would have no more gas for our cars and also thinking about the environment, here are some alternative fuels that have been developed.
Hydrogen can fuel two types of cars: fuel cell ones and vehicles that have an internal combustion engine that has been engineered to use hydrogen instead of gasoline. This is a very interesting source of alternative fuel, but a problem to current use being that there isn’t yet an infrastructure of hydrogen fueling stations.
For the first type of cars, the hydrogen is used to generate electricity for the electric motors. It means that this car uses a fuel cell to generate its own electricity, in a process between hydrogen and oxygen, which are combined, the byproduct of this being water vapor. The Honda FCX Clarity uses this technology.
For the second type, the hydrogen combustion engine, the car uses an internal combustion engine just like a gasoline-powered car. Presently, many automakers are testing hydrogen vehicles, like the BMW Hydrogen 7, which is perhaps the most known.
Even though it may sound like a modern technology, in fact, in the past, early automobiles used electric motors. What’s stopping automakers to spread these cars more today? Taking into account the fact that you might want your car to go at high speeds, this takes a lot of power, the process draining the electric car’s batteries quickly. Slowly, some automakers are overcoming even this obstacle. The new batteries (lithium-ion) charge quickly and the charges last longer. We already have cars like Tesla Roadster or the Chevy Volt that use these type of batteries in combination with an internal combustion engine, creating a new class of cars called an extended-range electric vehicle. These batteries can be charged by plugging your car into a regular wall outlet. When the battery power begins to fade while driving, an onboard gasoline generator switches on to recharge the batteries in order to keep the car functional.
Creative Commons license Mercedes Benz Ener-G-Force – 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show. This off road vehicle uses a hydro-tech converter to convert water into hydrogen to power the vehicle. Image courtesy of Melissa Hincha-Own, Flickr. Click for image source.
This is an increasingly common alternative fuel that is often added to gasoline in the summertime to help cut emissions. Ethanol is a type of alcohol that’s made from plant matter. The prime materials differ from country to country – in the United States it’s commonly made from corn, while in Brazil it’s made from sugar cane.
These days, you can find many cars with flex-fuel engines which can run on either standard gasoline from the pump or E85 ethanol, a fuel blend that is 15% gasoline and 85% ethanol. And don’t worry that there won’t be a place to find it in order to refuel your car, as the network of ethanol fueling stations continues to increase.
Liquefied Petroleum Gas
Propane is the common name used for liquefied petroleum gas (LP). LP gas is a hydrocarbon gas under low pressure. It is made up mainly from propane, but also includes other hydrocarbon gases that are kept pressurized in order to keep it in liquid form. LP gas resembles liquefied natural gas, but keeping LP gas liquefied makes it more energy dense, thus more useful for powering cars and trucks.
LP gas powers a car through an internal combustion engine, specifically designed for this type of fuel. It isn’t widely used for cars in the U.S., but it accounts for 10% of car fuel in the Netherlands.
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