With an increasing pressure on companies to source alternative fuel types before our fossil fuel resources run out, many fuel manufacturing companies are looking into any and every alternative around, to see if they can beat the clock. And with fuel prices rising on an almost daily basis, it’s only natural that both households and companies are looking into the best fuels for their car type. Below, we discuss some of the most common types of fuel you can use in your car, today. If you’re thinking of having your car modified to meet some of the criteria needed to use more environmentally-friendly alternatives, have a good read and see how these can affect you.
Gas is the most commonly used fuel for most car-types. With it being readily available and having a history going as far back at the early 1900’s, it’s one of the most tried-and-tested car fuel types around. Manufacturers use a blend to create this common fuel in order to resist the liquid igniting too early- this is because gasoline is a quick-igniting fuel that allows for faster acceleration.
During the 1950’s, oil refineries began adding detergents to the gasoline in order to clean out engines during use, which has proved very popular and added to the longevity of some cars. Later, in the 1970’s, low-sulphur variants were created to preserve the catalysts of the more modern-day vehicles.
Due to the high levels of CO2 produced when using gasoline, it is now considered an outdated fuel. The smog, pollution and, subsequently, the increased awareness of climate change has meant that production companies are now seeking to use other fuel types, some of which you can see in this article. Indeed, due to the increased demand for biofuels, it is common for most blends in America to include up to 10% of ethanol refiners in their gasoline.
Diesel fuel can be used specifically with diesel engines. Because this fuel tends to last longer with vehicles that need to cover a lot of distance or are used a lot, it’s favoured by many transport types. It’s very likely that most of the trucks and vans you see on the road are using diesel, while boats and trains are some of the biggest users, across the globe.
This fuel seems to get a lot of mixed reviews from governments looking to implement environmentally-friendly changes. As an example, the UK initially pushed the public toward buying diesel cars. This has now changed, and it’s been said that heavier taxes are going to be given to those who use a diesel car, along with a much stricter MOT system- much to the chagrin of many members of the nation.
While diesel gives off less carbon dioxide, due it’s oftentimes more natural resources, it does give off nitrous oxide, which can create smog. As such, biodiesel is increasingly researched by many, with vegetable oil being one of the main contenders for ingredients.
Also known as propane (because googling “petrol” comes up with many, many different variants), liquid petrol was once known as a “volatile component of gasoline” and- despite being a very clean energy source compared to most fuel types- it is very rare to be able to find a car in the US that runs on propane. In the UK, it’s more common and usually found in hybrid cars.
The kind of propane that you’re likely to come across in America and Canada is not pure, and will usually be mixed with butane, ethane or propylene. Still, it’s a great source of energy for BBQ’s and in the production industries- not to mention that it remains as one of the top 3 motor fuels in the world. It’s very likely that the number of cars using liquified petroleum will increase in the near future, since it’s a much cheaper alternative to standard gas and diesel.
Compressed Natural Gas
Another more environmentally-friendly alternative to the biggest fuel types is compressed natural gas. With CNG systems producing around 80% less than standard gasoline and diesel, it can be an attractive alternative to companies who are looking to make their vehicles greener, saving them money in the long-run and allowing communities to view them more favourably than their toxin-producing competitors. According to Gas South, the cost of running a vehicle on compressed natural gas is around 50% cheaper than traditional fuels.
Compressed natural gas is becoming increasingly popular, especially in the more green-conscious states. California is probably one of the best-known areas that have implemented CNG filling stations across the state. Although any car can be converted to run on compressed natural gas, it is actually much more common in countries such as Iran, Brazil, Pakistan, Argentina, and India, with around 14.8 million cars using CNG as their main fuel source, across the globe.
Surprisingly, CNG is actually a domestic fuel source, with around 98% of compressed natural gas being sourced and shipped from America. It’s also considered one of the safest options around, in terms of fuel, since it has a very narrow range of flammability and it is much less likely to be subject to spillages, either domestically or during business transportation.
Ethanol is an extremely popular biofuel that is often used in conjunction with some of the fuels listed above. It is derived from the sugar cane, corn and barley plants, along with a myriad of other natural resources. While many cars already have the ability to run on ethanol alone, it is much more common for household drivers to use one of the mixtures of gasoline and ethanol, or diesel and ethanol. The amounts given have varied over the years, though it is increasingly used in these fuels to help make vehicles more environmentally friendly.
Ethanol is considered a sustainable energy source and, as such, it is much more likely to be continually used in the future, when compared to fossil fuels (which are finite resources). Unfortunately, researchers at the University of Minnesota claim that only 12.3% of US fuel consumption would be accounted for, even if manufacturers claimed and used all of the appropriate corn fields available. Put simply, America uses too much fuel to consider using ethanol in place of the alternatives, currently. Other negatives include a low mileage ability, with users needing to refuel more often than they are currently used to.
As is implied in the name, bio-diesels are diesel alternatives that are sourced from natural resources, including rapeseed, palm oil, and sugar beet. You’re likely to have heard about bio-diesels over ethanol, for example, since large restaurant corporations have begun utilising this fuel in their transport vehicles. In the UK, McDonald’s processes the fat from their cooking fryers in Liverpool and is used in their delivery trucks.
Of course, vehicles that intend to use a higher percentage of biodiesel in their diesel/biohybrids will need some major modifications, while smaller percentages can be utilised effectively with little-to-no modifications necessary. With Petrol Prices stating that most traditional, diesel cars can effectively run on 20% bio-diesel alongside their normal fuel.
Unfortunately, due to palm oil being sourced via deforestation, excessive use of bio-diesel can, in turn, affect the environment. It’s also much more costly than traditional fuel sources, especially if you aren’t a corporation that happens to have lots of this fuel source around, as a by-product of your manufacturing process!
There is naturally going to be pros and cons to each fuel source, as with most things in life. Luckily, most of our current, most popular car fuels are still available and are being improved upon each day. Yet the only real alternative to our current fuel sources is to research and delve into the world we live in. Since we know that biofuels are out there, it’s just a case of researching the ones that currently hold the most value over the least cons. The alternative, of course, is to simply try to curb the amount of fuel we use- but as our reliance on cars and vehicles in general grow, it’s looking increasingly unlikely that this will ever happen. In the meantime, it’s interesting to know what our options are.