With the current oil crisis still fresh on everybody’s minds, now is possibly the best time to be talking about what alternative fuel options exist for cars. Let us take a close look at some of the these options to visualize which best suits our needs.
When very high quantities of bioethanol are mixed with very low quanities of petrol, it leads to a fuel called bioethanol E85. This is a very powerful and yet environmentally friendly fuel. The E stands for bioethanol and the number indicates the percentage of bioethanol in the mixture. So, E85 means a fuel, which has 85 percent bioethanol and 15 percent petrol. The advantages in using bioethanol are of course in the cost savings. It costs less than unleaded petrol and can also produce more brake horsepower. Quite a few of the top car manufacturing companies like Saab, Volvo and Ford make cars that can use bioethanol. The disadvantages are in the running costs of the cars using bioethanol. Almost all these cars deliver much less mileage than regular cars. Add to this, the problem of the availability of enough bioethanol filling stations.
Diesel cars can use biodiesel, which is more environment-friendly than diesel and more widely available than bioethanol. Most diesel engines can run with biodiesel with little or no modifications. However, the biodiesel mixture that most diesel engines are compatible with, contains only a small percentage of biodiesel, typically about five percent. This is hardly enough to have any dramatic reduction in emissions or on the environment. Further, biodiesel is fairly expensive to produce and thus costs not much less than standard fuels, which also means that running costs are not considerably reduced.
Electric cars have caught the fancy of many and have been around for some time in some form or another. These are purported to be one of the most environmentally friendly cars, which produce zero emissions if the car batteries can use renewable electricity. However, there are some big disadvantages, the biggest being the cost of batteries. Electric cars themselves cost about 80 percent more than ordinary cars. Further, the rechargeable batteries that make all the difference to the emissions, are so expensive that most of the time, they can only be leased at fairly high prices. And, they only last for about three to five years! Charging these batteries is also not easy with charging points not so wide spread and charging taking anywhere from six to eight hours! All these disadvantages have prevented the electric car from going really mainstream.
The more practical approach to the idea of an electric car is the hybrid-electric car. One part of this car is like a conventional car but the other operates on an electric battery. Energy is used far more efficiently in these cars – when freewheeling, the battery is charged from the motion of the car. Also, when the car needs to move at high speeds, it uses the conventional engine but when it needs to proceed far more slowly crowded city streets, it can switch over to the electric engine. Though at present, these hybrid-electric cars are expensive to purchase, they use much less fuel than conventional cars and produce far less harmful emissions than conventional cars.
While none of the alternative fuels have proved to be a perfect replacement for conventional fuels as yet, possibility remains high of one them doing so in the absolutely near future.