Alternate fuel vehicles are becoming more popular.
Some of the reasons contributing to that are finite supplies of fossil fuels like oil that make up gasoline, and the greenhouse gases and air pollution emitted by cars and trucks.
In this guide, we list some alternate vehicle fuels/energy sources, and explain what they are and how they might be used.
What Are Alternate Fuel Vehicles
One of two things:
- vehicles that run on a fuel other than traditional petroleum fuels (petrol or Diesel fuel)
- any technology of powering an engine that does not involve solely petroleum (e.g. electric car, hybrid electric vehicles, solar powered etc.)
- A dedicated, flexible fuel, or dual-fuel vehicle designed to operate on at least one alternative fuel.
List Of Some Alternative Fuels
Alternate fuels to petroleum fuels (petrol or diesel) might include:
- Natural gas and liquid fuels domestically produced from natural gas
- Propane (liquefied petroleum gas)
- Blends of 85% or more of methanol, denatured ethanol, and other alcohols with gasoline or other fuels
- Methanol, denatured ethanol, and other alcohols
- Coal-derived, domestically produced liquid fuels
- Fuels (other than alcohol) derived from biological materials
- P-Series fuels
There are also other alternate fuel being used or in development.
What The Different Alternative Fuels Are
Electricity (used in Plug In, & Hybrid Vehicles)
- Electricity can be used in Hybrid Electric (HEV), Plug In Hybrid Electric (PHEV), and All Electric (AEV) vehicles. It can also be used in Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles via an electrochemical reaction
- Hybrids are fueled with liquid fuels, like gasoline, but use batteries to recapture energy otherwise lost during braking (ultimately boosting fuel economy). They don’t plug in.
- Plug In Hybrids are powered by an internal combustion engine and an electric motor that uses energy stored in a battery. The vehicle can be plugged in to an electric power source to charge the battery.
- All Electrics use a battery to store the electric energy that powers the electric motor. EV batteries are charged by plugging the vehicle in to an electric power source.
Read more about the different types of electric vehicles in this guide.
Biofuel (used in Diesel vehicles)
- Biodiesel is a renewable fuel that can be manufactured from vegetable oils, animal fats, or recycled cooking grease for use in diesel vehicles.
- Like petroleum diesel, biodiesel is used to fuel compression-ignition engines.
- Biodiesel, which is most often used as a blend with petroleum diesel fuel, can be used in many diesel vehicles without any engine modification.
- Biodiesel blend B20 ranges from 6% to 20% biodiesel blended with petroleum diesel. Another blend, B5 (a biodiesel blend of 5% biodiesel, 95% diesel), is also commonly used in fleet vehicles.
Ethanol (used in Flexible Fuel Vehicles)
- Ethanol is a widely used renewable fuel made from corn and other plant materials.
- It is blended with gasoline for use in vehicles.
- More than 98% of gasoline in the U.S. contains some ethanol.
- One common blend of ethanol is E10 (10% ethanol, 90% gasoline)
- Flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs) have an internal combustion engine and are capable of operating on gasoline and any blend of gasoline and ethanol up to 83%.
Hydrogen (used in Fuel Cell vehicles)
- Has the ability to power fuel cells in zero-emission FCEVs
- A fuel cell coupled with an electric motor is two to three times more efficient than an internal combustion engine running on gasoline.
- Hydrogen can also serve as fuel for internal combustion engines. However, unlike FCEVs, these produce tailpipe emissions and are less efficient.
- Hydrogen is extracted from different resources
- Currently, steam reforming, combining high-temperature steam with natural gas to extract hydrogen, accounts for the majority of the hydrogen produced in the United States.
- Hydrogen can also be produced from water through electrolysis. This is more energy intensive but can take advantage of inexpensive excess renewable energy, such as wind or solar, while avoiding the harmful emissions associated with other kinds of energy production.
- Fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) are powered by hydrogen.
- FCEVs use a propulsion system similar to that of electric vehicles, where energy stored as hydrogen is converted to electricity by the fuel cell. Unlike conventional internal combustion engine vehicles, they produce no harmful tailpipe emissions.
- FCEVs are fueled with pure hydrogen gas stored in a tank on the vehicle.
- FCEVs are equipped with other advanced technologies to increase efficiency, such as regenerative braking systems, which capture the energy lost during braking and store it in a battery.
- A hydrogen car is an automobile which uses hydrogen as its primary source of power for locomotion.
- These cars generally use the hydrogen in one of two methods: combustion, or fuel-cell conversion.
- In combustion, the hydrogen is “burned” in engines in fundamentally the same method as traditional gasoline cars.
- In fuel-cell conversion, the hydrogen is turned into electricity through fuel cells which then powers electric motors.
- With either method, the only byproduct from the spent hydrogen is water, however during combustion with air NOx can be produced.
You can read more about FCEVs (Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles) that use hydrogen in this guide.
Natural Gas (used in Natural Gas vehicles)
- a domestically produced gaseous fuel that is readily available through the utility infrastructure.
- Whether produced via conventional or renewable methods, this clean-burning alternative fuel must be compressed (CNG) or liquefied (LNG) for use in vehicles.
- Used in Natural gas vehicles (NGVs) – dedicated, bi-fuel or dual fuel
Propane (used in Propane vehicles)
- Propane, also known as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) or propane autogas, is stored as a liquid, and propane fueling infrastructure is widespread.
- Used in propane vehicles: dedicated and bi-fuel.
- Dimethyl ether
- Renewable hydrocarbon biofuels
These fuels may increase energy security, reduce emissions, improve vehicle performance, and stimulate the U.S. economy.
Additional fuels, such as ammonia, may also meet the criteria for alternative fuels when used in limited quantities.