From electricity to biodiesel; we bring you the low down on the fuels of the future…
The way we fuel our cars is changing; with C02 emissions playing havoc with the environment and oil on a slow and steady decline; alternative fuels may provide the answer to lowering emissions and sustainability, allowing us to keep driving long into the future.
With an overwhelming amount of information out there in the ether, we thought we’d do the hard work and sift through the research so we can bring you our guide to alternative fuels and the low down on the technology that’s being developed.
Oil and grease may be bad for you, but it could be the answer for your car if you drive a diesel and you’re looking for a cheap and more environmentally friendly way to run it!
Made from cooking oil and grease, any diesel car can run biodiesel; but don’t go pouring chip fat into your engine just yet; the oil and grease needs to be converted using a chemical process. Many enthusiasts do this themselves at home but it’s not without its risks; if done incorrectly it could do a lot of damage to your car, or even your home; so we suggest leaving it to the professionals!
Pros: Biodiesel is safe, biodegradable and reduces air pollutants associated with vehicle emissions.
Cons: Hard to get hold of as there’s limited production and distribution in place.
Although electric cars have been around for ages; recent advances in battery technology have really pushed them into the spotlight. Lithium-ion batteries, like the kind in your mobile phone or laptop, mean that cars are able to go for longer between charges.
Cars like the Peugeot iOn offer a great alternative to petrol; able to nip about any city centre with ease, it has a range of 93 miles.
Hybrid cars like the Toyota Prius use electricity to maximise fuel efficiency, switching between petrol and electricity at the optimum time to power the car.
Pros: Fuel cells produce electricity without combustion or pollution; electric cars are the greenest option around.
Cons: Most electric vehicles have a maximum range of around 100 miles and take several hours to recharge; batteries are very expensive.
Hydrogen is seen by many as the fuel of the future. Produced from water using renewable energy sources and used either in a fuel cell within the engine or in a converted internal combustion engine; the only by-product of hydrogen is water!
Rather than running off of battery power alone, a hydrogen-powered car can use a fuel cell to generate its own electricity; a chemical process within the fuel cell combines hydrogen and oxygen, and electricity is born.
Cars like the Toyota FCV are in production and set to utilise this technology. Going on sale in Japan in May of next year, it might not be long before they hit the UK shores; the only problem being, where to ‘fill up’ with hydrogen.
Pros: No nasty emissions and hydrogen can be made from sustainable energy sources.
Cons: There is currently no fuelling infrastructure for hydrogen, and putting one in place will be costly and take time.
Liquefied petroleum gas or LPG has been around for a few years, and offers a cleaner and greener way to run your car. It could also mean savings when filling up at the pumps, with a tank of LPG coming in at roughly half the price of a tank of petrol.
LPG is a hydrocarbon gas kept under low pressure. Mainly made up of Propane, it is kept pressurized so that it remains in liquid form; this also makes the gas denser and more useful for powering cars.
Any car can be converted to run on LPG, there are many installers on the market and conversions generally start from around £1000; make sure you do your research and go with a trusted installer. Head to LPG Forum for more advice and information!
Pros: LPG produces fewer emissions than petrol, offers cheaper refuelling and is widely available.
Cons: The smaller tank means more trips to the forecourt.
Compressed natural gas
A nice idea if made viable; a compressed natural gas car runs off Methane stored at high pressure and uses a modified combustion engine and the gas supply that comes direct to your home. You couldn’t just hook your car up to the oven though; you’d need a fuelling station in your house to compress the gas.
CNG is cheaper and cleaner than petrol or diesel, so it is possible that we could see this fuel gain in popularity. As there is no network of gas refuelling stations at present though, if you found yourself with an empty tank far from home, you’d be in a tricky spot.
Pros: Can produce fewer emissions than petrol or diesel cars.
Cons: A by-product of producing natural gas is methane, which is far worse for the environment than C02.
If reading about alternative fuels has made you curious about your own car’s emissions; head to Next Green Car and enter your details to find out how green your current car is!