Alternative Options to Traditional Gasoline

5 min read

The future of the automotive industry is changing. This change is forcing automakers to consider alternative energy sources and recent developments in renewable energy. Do you know your alternative options?

by

Staff Writer

, Content Coordinator in
Brain Fuel
Image by HeyAuto

Alternative energy sources are plentiful and are quickly becoming an essential part of the automotive industry, especially considering recent climate change events. These sources include wind, solar, and fossil fuels. The renewable energy industry is multiplying in the United States, with an estimated $150 billion spent on renewable energy in 2017. Automotive Companies, like Ford, GM, Nissan, Hyundai, Toyota,Chrysler are providing alternative vehicles with unique features such as:

  • Power output
  • Environmental Impact
  • Renewability
  • Costs

Let us see what they offer for those interested in trading in their gasoline cars.

Hydrogen

Automakers and countries around the world seek alternative sources of energy as the oil market adjusts. One such resource with the potential to replace gasoline is hydrogen. With higher demands placed on transportation and with gas prices on the rise, this route into the future may be the solution. Hydrogen is abundant in the environment and is, therefore, easy to access. It can be found in water, hydrocarbons, and organic matter.

Power Output:

There are two ways to harness hydrogen. As a first and less efficient method, hydrogen is used to burn, similar to the internal combustion of gas or diesel. It is more efficient to use hydrogen in a hydrogen fuel cell, in which hydrogen reacts with oxygen to make water and electricity. The electricity drives electric motors, which propel the car. In this method, hydrogen fuel cells perform 25 percent better than gas, according to studies.

Environmental Impact:

Fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) can run on hydrogen. The appeal of FCEVs lies in their efficiency, rapid fill times, and the fact that they emit only warm air and water. By using wind or solar energy to split water, no pollution is emitted during its production or hydrogen fuel cell use. Vehicles powered by hydrogen emit virtually no hydrocarbons, particulates, carbon dioxide, or carbon monoxide. Their ability to lower greenhouse gas emissions makes them a practical option. In addition, hydrogen-powered cars release water as friendly dihydrogen monoxide, which you can literally drink.

Renewability:

Hydrogen is a basic element that will be around, in one form or another, giving it the potential to be used as fuel. However, the most common process for collecting hydrogen uses fossil fuels. In other words, there will come a time when the only way to produce hydrogen is through the highly inefficient and expensive process of hydrolysis. If that happens, it will be much more efficient to invest that energy into more efficient methods of transportation.

Cost:

Social stigma and costs are the current barriers to the automotive industry's adoption of hydrogen fuel cells. Fuel cells for hydrogen began as part of space research, so the cost issue is understandable. Since hydrogen fuel originates from rocket fuel, the public generally considers it dangerous and explosive, though that view is slowly changing. Also, hydrogen extraction is a laborious process that leaves hydrogen with less energy than gas or diesel fuel. This production bottleneck partly explains why FCEVs have not yet reached the mass market.

Biodiesel

Biodiesel is a fossil-free fuel made from vegetable oil that reduces particulate pollution when burned. Unlike conventional petroleum diesel, it comes from biodegradable, non-toxic resources such as vegetable oils, animal fats, and even recycled grease; it burns clean and is renewable.

Power Output:

Biodiesel is available in various blends, such as B5, which is 5% biodiesel and 95% standard diesel, and its pure form (B100). Pure biodiesel has a slightly lower energy density than its petroleum-based counterpart, so it requires a larger volume of biodiesel to travel the same distance as petroleum.

Environment Impact:

Biological fuels are environmentally friendly. Liquid fuels are biodegradable, and so they do not pose the same risks that oil spills do. In fact, biodiesel is ten times less toxic than regular table salt, making it safer to handle than gasoline.

Renewability:

Unlike fossil fuels, biodiesel is a renewable resource. There is no synthetic material in biodiesel. Furthermore, there are hundreds of plant species that are viable for use as biodiesel.

Costs:

Since biodiesel has a limited distribution network due to the limited production, it can be more expensive than conventional diesel, particularly in its purest form - but this also depends on the market and geography. Additionally, biodiesel has a lower energy content, which means that biodiesel-powered cars require more fuel than standard diesel cars.

Electric Vehicle (EV)

Electricity-powered transportation is not a new concept. Electric trolleys were first built in 1835, followed by electric carriages a short time later. This technology is well known and constantly improving. To demonstrate the feasibility of electric cars, large car companies, including GM, Honda, and Toyota, have created several concepts and production cars in the past two decades. GMC and Chevrolet will offer over 25 different vehicles with electric propulsions or alternative fuels. As an alternative fuel in the future, electric power may be one of the most sustainable options.

Power Output:

It is the power of the battery that determines how fast an electric car can go. Historically, electric cars have been criticized for having poor range on a single charge. Back in the 1990s, many electric vehicles could only travel 50 to 60 miles on a charge. Recent breakthroughs in batteries, including powerful lithium-ion batteries, will significantly increase the range of electric vehicles. Modern batteries have storage capacities of over 120 kW and can power cars for hundreds of miles.

Environmental Impact:

There are no emissions from electric vehicles. However, there are emissions from the production of electricity. Coal-fired power plants emit toxic carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere. When electricity is generated from renewable sources, however, no emissions are produced during production or during the use of electric vehicles.

Renewability:

Trees do not produce electricity. A certain amount of electricity has to be generated. Research into renewable sources for electrical energy production is the best hope for electric cars. Since electric cars emit no emissions, they can be the best possible alternative to gas. For transportation to be completely emission-free, only more renewable electric energy needs to be developed.

Costs:

In the United States, coal-fired power plants still produce most of the electricity. Nevertheless, an increasing amount of electricity is being generated using renewable resources, such as solar, wind, and hydropower. U.S. electric companies produce electricity at very low costs. Electricity prices were under $0.10 per kWh last year. Electricity costs about 25% of alternative liquid fuels to power electric vehicles.

Other Alternatives 

Flex

The Flex Fuel Vehicle (FFV) uses an internal combustion engine and can run on gasoline or blend gas and ethanol up to 83 percent. According to geography and season, this gasoline-ethanol blend contains 51%-83% ethanol. Approximately 21 million FFVs were in use in the United States in 2017, according to IHS Markit. The vast majority of car owners are unaware that their vehicles are factory-built and that they can run on gasoline or gasoline-ethanol blends. As far as fuel system and powertrain calibration go, FFVs are similar to conventional gasoline-only cars. While the fuel economy is lower with increased levels of ethanol, FFVs with higher ethanol blends have better acceleration performance.

Hybrid

Hybrid vehicles combine an electric motor with a gas internal combustion engine to power them, using regenerative braking to capture energy. At times, the electric motor does all the work, while other times the gas engine does, and sometimes they work in tandem. The result is a lower level of gas consumption and a higher fuel economy. The addition of electric power may even enhance performance in some cases. To date, gasoline-electric hybrids have been the most popular alternatives to gas internal combustion engines. Vehicles such as Toyota's Prius combine a conventional gas engine with a battery pack and electric motor. With the electric motor working in conjunction with the gasoline engine, the car's battery is charged while driving.

Plug-in-Hybrid(PHEVs)

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) store electricity in rechargeable batteries and emit considerably less pollution than conventional gasoline and diesel vehicles. Electricity replaces gasoline in gas-electric hybrids at low speeds and for starting and stopping. As with PHEVs, PHEVs run on electricity to power the vehicle over long distances, releasing no emissions when the car is powered by batteries alone. A good example of PHEV is the Kia Niro. The Niro is equipped with clean technology to reduce smog, and it can be charged at home or at public EV charging stations hybrid.

About the author
Staff Writer
, Content Coordinator
Here you’ll find everything about cars: from comparisons to reviews and everything in between. Stay tuned to the HeyAuto blog and learn about the automotive industry, one post at a time.

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