Alternative fuels for automobiles are currently a topic of growing interest and importance. On the basis of October 2013 data, there are approximately 34 million flexible fuel vehicles and the sale of hybrid electric vehicles numbered more than 9 million (September 2014 data). Other figures in terms of number of vehicles produced include 17.8 million natural gas vehicles (December 2012) and 17.5 million LPG powered vehicles (December 2010).

10 Reasons to Use Alternative Fuels & The Future of Automobiles

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In this article, we look at 1) what is an alternative fuel vehicle? 2) 10 reasons to use alternative fuels, 3) some single-fuel sources, 4) some multiple-fuel sources, and 5) potential future of automobiles.

WHAT IS AN ALTERNATIVE FUEL VEHICLE?

An alternative fuel vehicle may be defined as a vehicle that is powered by any fuel other than the conventional petroleum fuels (diesel or petrol). It also indicates any technology of engine powering that does not entail solely petroleum (such as solar powered, electric car or hybrid electric vehicles). Such a vehicle is therefore “cleaner” and safer for the environment.

A green vehicle (also known as an environmentally friendly vehicle) is a motor vehicle for the road that produces less environmental impacts than comparable traditional internal combustion engine vehicles that are powered by diesel or gasoline, or one that utilizes specific alternative fuels.

10 REASONS TO USE ALTERNATIVE FUELS

#1. Conventional fuels are going to run out

One day, our sources for traditional fuels including petroleum would be depleted. Owing to the fact that these fuels are typically not renewable, a lot of people are worried that a day would come when the demand for these fuels would be more than the supply, triggering a considerable world crisis. Non-environmentalists also concur with the opinion that the majority of oil fields (situated in the Middle East) in the world are associated with problems – both political and economic. Determining a new method or solution with respect to finding different countries to create new fuels would reduce the unrest and conflict resulting from the world’s dependence on fuel supply from the Middle East.

#2. To reduce pollution

The use of alternative fuels considerably decreases harmful exhaust emissions (such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, particulate matter and sulfur dioxide) as well as ozone-producing emissions.

#3. To protect against global warming

According to a commonly accepted scientific theory, burning fossil fuels was causing temperatures to rise in the earth’s atmosphere (global warming). Though global warming continues to be just a theory, a lot of people across the globe are of the belief that discovering sources of cleaner burning fuel is an essential step towards enhancing the quality of our environment.

#4. To save money

Alternative fuels can be less expensive to use not just in terms of the fuel itself but also in terms of a longer service life. This in turn means savings for the long term.

#5. Can reuse waste

Biofuels, bioproducts, and biopower provide modern and fresh relevance to the old belief that trash for one person is a treasure for another. That’s good news considering that Americans produce in excess of 236 million tons of waste each year.

#6. More choices

People are different. Each person has his own requirements, opinions, and preferences. One great thing about alternative fuels and the corresponding vehicles that run on them is that there is something to suit any lifestyle.

#7. You’ll be helping the farmers

The use of biofuels that depend on crops produced and processed locally help to support farmers for their dedicated and hard labor. Biodiesel and ethanol cooperatives are a result of the great outmoded farmer cooperatives that assist with returning power to the hands of the people.

#8. Can frequently be produced domestically

Often, alternative fuels can be developed domestically, utilizing a country’s resources and thereby strengthening the economy.

#9. Fuel economy

Vehicles driven on hydrogen fuel cells and diesel are more economical with respect to fuel compared to an equivalent gasoline vehicle.

#10. More convenience

Wireless charging is one of the factors that make alternative fuels more convenient. Automaker Nissan already displayed the technology in concert along with a parking assist system which mechanically guides the vehicle to its “docking station” or parking spot. The driver just presses a button or utters a command, releases control over the wheel, and the vehicle takes care of the rest. Once the vehicle is parked, the driver just turns the car off, closes the door, and carries on with his business. No need to go the gas station and no plugs. All that’s required is low-cost electricity and adequate gas in the tank whenever you have to travel in your car.

More and more onboard sensors now provide cars with the ability to tackle the most challenging driving tasks such as modifying cruise speeds to suit traffic situations in real time, emergency stops, and parking. In combination with Advanced Driver Assistance Systems and Advanced GPS navigation, we can soon expect a day to come when driving would be absolutely “hands free.”

The development of the ‘connected car,’ characterized by seamless communication of the automobile with sensor onboard systems of its own, in addition to road and signal infrastructure, so as to decrease time expended in traffic, prevent accidents, and connect occupants to the web by way of mobile and on-board devices – is triggering increased electrification for vehicle architectures.

SOME SINGLE FUEL SOURCES

Solar

A solar car is one powered by solar energy got from solar panels present on the car. It is an electric vehicle. At present, solar panels cannot be utilized to directly give a car the required amount of power. However, they can be utilized to increase the range of electric vehicles. They are used for racing in competitions such as the North American Solar Challenge and the World Solar Challenge. Frequently, these events are sponsored by the United States Department of Energy or other government agencies eager to encourage the growth of alternative energy applying technology such as electric vehicles and solar cells.

Nuna, a group of manned vehicles running on solar power clinched the World Solar Challenge held at Australia, three times in succession. This was in the years 2001, 2003 and 2005. The Nunas are developed by students from the Delft University of Technology.

A two-seater renewable energy vehicle called Trev was designed by staff and students from the University of South Australia. This vehicle was first showcased at the 2005 World Solar Challenge as the idea of an efficient, low-mass commuter car. With a mass of approximately 300 kg and 3 wheels, the prototype car’s acceleration was 0-100 km/h in approximately 10 seconds and a maximum speed of 120 km/h.

Air-engine

It is an emission-free piston engine that utilizes compressed air as an energy source. Guy Nègre, a French engineer, is credited with invention of the first ever compressed air car. The pistons in a modified piston engine can be driven utilizing the expansion of compressed air. Effectiveness of operation can be achieved by way of the utilization of environmental heat at regular temperature to warm the expanded air (that is otherwise cold) from the storage tank. The non-adiabatic expansion can potentially considerably increase the machine’s efficiency. The sole exhaust is cold air (-15 degree centigrade) which may also be utilized for car air conditioning. A pressurized carbon-fiber tank is the source for air. Air enters the engine by way of a rather traditional injection system. A distinct crank design inside the engine increases the time in the course of which there is warming of air charge from ambient sources. In addition, a two-stage process enables enhanced heat transfer rates.

Battery-electric

Battery electric vehicles (or BEVs), are electric vehicles for which the key energy storage lies in the batteries’ chemical energy. These vehicles are the most widespread kind of what the California Air Resources Board (CARB) defines as zero emission vehicle (ZEV) owing to the fact that they create no tailpoint emissions at the spot of operation. Included among the batteries utilized in electric vehicles are absorbed glass mat, nickel metal hydride, Li-poly, NiCd, zinc-air batteries, flooded lead acid and Li-ion. The electrical energy taken on board a BEV to propel the motors is got from a range of battery chemistries organized into battery packs. For extra range, pusher trailers or genset trailers are now and again utilized, creating a kind of hybrid vehicle.

As of October 2014, the Nissan Leaf all-electric car is the world’s top selling plug-in highway-capable electric car.

Biofuels

Ethanol and biodiesel are the two major biofuels created from bioenergy.

Ethanol can be developed from sugar cane in Brazil or other tropical countries and from crops such as soya bean and corn in the United States and other places where the climate is temperate.

Biodiesel is mostly developed from vegetable oils and may be utilized in any diesel automobile devoid of modification.

Gasoline comprising 10 percent of ethanol can be utilized in the majority of modern autos bereft of modification. Higher mixes of ethanol (20 percent and 85 percent) may be utilized in modern FFV (Flexi Fuel Vehicles) available from the majority of automobile companies.

Compressed biogas can be utilized for Internal Combustion Engines after the raw gas has been purified. The taking away of H2S, H20 and particles may be considered as standard creating a gas with the same features as Compressed Natural Gas. The utilization of biogas is specifically interesting for climates where a biogas powered power plant’s waste heat could be utilized in the course of the summer.

Hydrogen

As of 2009, Hydrogen fuelled cars for the main market seems to be a distant happening. As per the 2006-published Hydrogen Posture Plan (from the U.S. Department of Energy), the chief issue of utilizing hydrogen as fuel for vehicles is: in spite of the fact that hydrogen is the element available in plenty in the universe, the form in which it exists on the earth is not naturally elemental. To get pure hydrogen, it must be created from other compounds that contain hydrogen such as biomass, water or fossil fuels.

Propane

Propane (also termed LPG or liquefied petroleum gas) is a fossil fuel that is domestically available in abundance and which produces less harmful greenhouse gases and air pollutants. The utilization of propane as a vehicle fuel provides convenience, enhances energy security, improves the environment and public health and offers performance benefits.

Usually, with respect to fleet applications, propane is less expensive than gasoline and provides a comparable driving range to traditional fuel. Despite the fact that its octane rating is higher than that of gasoline (104 to 112 for the former as against 87 to 92 for the latter), and possibly more horsepower, its Btu rating is less than that of gasoline thereby leading to the positive benefit of lower fuel economy. Thanks to the fuel’s mixture of air and propane being fully gaseous, cold start issues relating to liquid fuel are decreased.

Propane is insoluble in water, nonpoisonous and non-toxic. When compared with vehicles powered by conventional gasoline and diesel, propane vehicles can deliver lower amounts of certain harmful greenhouse gases and air pollutants, depending on engine calibration, drive cycle and vehicle type.

Natural gas

At present, compressed natural gas is utilized in 20 percent of buses and numerous converted vehicles in the United States. Though natural gas is typically available only by way of extraction from fossil fuels, it continues to be regarded as a great fuel alternative owing to its availability in the U.S. In addition, it is associated with cleaner burning compared to regular petroleum.

SOME MULTIPLE FUEL SOURCES

Hybrid

A hybrid vehicle utilizes multiple propulsion systems to deliver motive power. The gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle is the most common kind of hybrid vehicle which utilizes electric batteries and gasoline (petrol) for the energy utilized to run electric motors and internal combustion engines (ICEs). These motors are typically comparatively little in size and would be regarded as “underpowered” on their own, but they can deliver a regular driving experience when utilized in combination at the time of acceleration and other maneuvers that call for more power.

As per December 2013 figures, there are more than 50 models of hybrid electric cars existing in various world markets. In addition, 7.5 million hybrid electric vehicles were sold across the globe, the leader being Toyota Motor Company (TMC) with over 6 million Toyota and Lexus hybrids and followed by Honda Motor Co. with cumulative international sales exceeding 1.2 million hybrids. The Toyota Prius is the world’s top selling hybrid with sales of 3 million units completed by June 2013. The United States leads in global sales with more than 3 million units having been sold by October of last year.

Flexible fuel

A dual-fuel vehicle or flexible-fuel vehicle (FFV) is a light duty truck or alternative fuel automobile with a multifuel engine that can utilize more than a single fuel, typically blended in the same tank, and the mixture is burned together in the combustion chamber. In conversational language, these vehicles are termed “flex-fuel”, “flex” in Brazil and “flexifuel” in Europe. FFVs are distinct from bi-fuel vehicles characterized by the storage of two fuels in separate tanks. The ethanol flexible-fuel vehicle is the most common and commercially available FFV in the global market, with the key markets being in the United States, Sweden, Brazil and a number of other European markets.

POTENTIAL FUTURE OF AUTOMOBILES

The ‘connected car’ mentioned earlier, is one example of what we can see in the future of automobiles in terms of cleaner, more efficient and safer driving. Government involvement is required to ensure the connected car gets on the road. In early 2014, standards setting agencies of Europe concurred on a common group of protocols for traffic infrastructure and cars to communicate. This is an example worth emulating. After that, governments should fix stringent deadlines for all new cars to be completely connected and able to platoon. A date should also be fixed for the retrofitting of existing cars with a fundamental locator beacon and the capability to receive warnings of hazards.

For cars to connect, it is necessary that new infrastructure be built. Parking spaces and roads would require sensors for monitoring while motorways would require dedicated lanes for platooning.

Another exciting development in the future of automobiles is the driverless car. As the name indicates, it is a car that self-drives to a particular destination. There is no human driver. One of the Google co-founders is of the opinion that driverless cars would be on the market for customers to buy, in five years or less. In addition to helping cut accidents and therefore, reducing expenses to insurers and health systems, these cars can also ease congestion and reduce fuel use. Computers are associated with speedier braking than humans. In addition, they can make out when the cars in front of them are braking. This means that driverless cars can drive much closer to one another than human beings safely can. These cars could also form fuel-saving “road trains” on motorways, sliding along in the area of the slipstream of the vehicle that’s in front of it.

The future of automobiles is definitely bright with safer, faster and easier driving and alternative fuels for a cleaner environment.

Alternative Vehicle Fuels

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