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Four Fuel Alternatives That Have Been Overlooked

3p Contributor | Monday September 19th, 2011 | 2 Comments

By Lee Pickering

Fuels, petrol, oil, and diesel – they all have to come from somewhere. For decades, we’ve taken advantage of our natural supplies and just ignored the fact that one day, we will run out. Now, though, we seriously need to find a renewable and green power source to continue the evolution of the car. But what fuels have been overlooked since the motorcar was invented?

Hydrogen
You could argue that hydrogen has left on the shelf to gather dust until we’re in it so deep we can’t even see our knees. But while hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, that doesn’t mean it’s easy to utilise. The fact is: hydrogen is the power source of the future. It’s 100% clean and will rid the world of fossil fuel cars, so why can’t we use it right now?

Well, it’s complicated. Hydrogen is easily accessible but bloody difficult to store, and when you realise that we have to store our current fuel in massive tankers, it makes sense that the people with 150 IQs are trying to figure out ways of sorting it.

Before we can use hydrogen safely in our cars, we need to make it cheap and accessible to everybody, and we just can’t offer that at the moment. Sure, there’s the Honda Clarity which is proving hydrogen power is do-able, but it is way too expensive for the average family and you can only re-fuel it in certain pumps in California – which could become a bit irritating if you live in Bognor Regis.

Electric
Hydrogen is an up-and-coming fuel, but what about electric? We’ve known about electric power for decades, centuries even, so why has it only just become a viable option for powering cars? Well, in truth, the electric car has been around since the early 1900s. There were several cars made during the turn of the century that were powered by the plug, so why didn’t they catch on? Unsurprisingly, it has everything to do with range. Think about it: even today, in 2011, we’re struggling to produce electric cars that are capable of ranges over 100 miles, so what must it have been like in 1910?

We are now in the position of having powerful sockets, strong electric batteries and decades of car manufacturing intelligence, but we still can’t make electric cars work properly. They just aren’t good enough to replace our current crop of world-killing cars; so while electric might be the buzz word for now, don’t expect to be driving electric in 20 years’ time.

Vegetable Oil
Another fuel that could have become our green fuel of the future is vegetable oil. People have been using this easy-to-come-by product in their diesel engines for years, and while it might smell like a chip-shop in the back, it is a great way to save money and avoid the pumps as much as possible. Unfortunately, however, the car industry never really felt like the whole cooking oil notion would work, and that’s why nobody is driving around on chip-power.

Biofuel
One of the most interesting fuels that have been overlooked is biofuel. Biofuels are made from basically anything: rapeseed, mustard, sunflower, palm oil and algae are just some examples that make this fuel very renewable. But we’ve never really warmed to the bio and it’s a shame.

There’s plenty of scope with biofuel, as there are already quite a few pumps available throughout the country. The infrastructure is sort-of there, and it would only take a big push from the government to really get the ball moving – but instead grants and investments are focused on electric power. What a shame.

So there you have it; there are lots of different fuels that we could have used and could have perfected, but instead, we’ve gone for hydrogen and electric as our future power sources. Let’s just hope they work and we don’t end up cooking.

[Image credit: Seuss, Flickr]

This post has been written by Lee Pickering of Carfinance247 (Netcars). After spending three years studying English Language with Creative Writing at degree level, I knew my path in life would one day lead me to writing. It was a natural progression; something that I knew I would enjoy doing in a career, but I never once thought that passion from writing would push me towards motoring copywriting. I now write for a number of companies, with Netcars.com being the place I call home.


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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Leon-Kaye/726541285 Leon Kaye

    Nice post–another alternative is methanol based dimethyl ether–Volvo in Sweden has been experimenting with this for years and it looks to be set for some of its trucks–here’s a url fyi… http://greengopost.com/from-paper-to-trucks-first-dme-renewable-fuel-plant-opens-in-sweden/

  • http://www.gaiagate.com/greentool/ J. Fulkerson

    A good article, but I don’t agree with some of it.
    The statement “don’t expect to be driving electric in 20 years’ time.” seems rather odd considering we now have more electric car choices than ever before. The same was probably said about hybrid cars. Can everyone afford them yet, no. But if you pay attention, you can see quite a few of them on the road. Some day I plan on converting my Prius with more batteries. Reversing the hybrid concept by using electric until the batteries are low, then using a gasoline engine. The Chevy Volt is already there. Use biofuels to run the backup engine! As with any new technology, the more early adopters, the faster it can be scaled down to the masses.
    The article admits Hydrogen is the power carrier of the future but then complains about investing in research to make that future. I don’t fully understand that.
    If you must have a liquid fuel that could stretch or replace gasoline, I would say Algae.
    Algae as a biofuel base is probably the best choice as you won’t be using valuable farmland and food crops. With the armed forces seriously looking at this, the investments being made into this biofuel makes sense.