A Guide to Alternative Fuels for Students at Auto Technology School
October 12, 2018
A typical passenger vehicle can produce about 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, which contributes to smog, air pollution, and global warming. With over a billion cars in use globally, these emissions and their effects can really add up. Besides this immediate environmental impact, the fossil fuels that we use to power our gas engines are also finite resources, which are estimated to run out in the next fifty to one hundred years.
Fortunately, alternative fuels could provide a solution that is both sustainable and environmentally friendly. There are still questions, though, about which alternative fuels to adopt and for what purposes. The possibilities vary in terms of their cost, efficiency, cleanliness, and the infrastructure in place to support them.
In this post, we’ll take a look at five of the leading alternative fuels of tomorrow.
Hydrogen Burns Cleanly, but Has a Cost Barrier
Hydrogen has the significant advantage of being a totally clean source of energy. When used in fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs), the only emissions produced are water and warm air. That said, it would be difficult and costly to develop the necessary fueling infrastructure, and the cells themselves are still very expensive to produce.
Biodiesel Creates Fuel from Waste
Biodiesel is made from cooking oil, animal fat, and even recycled restaurant grease. It can be used in any diesel vehicle you would encounter in an automotive technology course with little or no modifications necessary, but burns much cleaner than conventional diesel.
Natural Gas Offers Cheaper Fuel Prices, but with Drawbacks
While diesel cars have been somewhat common in the past, students in auto technology school may be less familiar with natural gas-powered vehicles. Natural gas burns cleaner than gasoline, but the production process creates methane. Like propane, natural gas is often used for cooking and heating, so already has a healthy infrastructure in place for distribution. It offers similar mileage to gasoline, but has the benefit of cheaper fuel prices.
Ethanol Is a Renewable but Imperfect Source of Energy
Ethanol is an alcohol-based fuel that can be blended with gasoline to reduce emissions. Many cars on the road today are designed to run on mixtures of up to 85% ethanol. Unlike traditional fossil fuels, the materials it’s created from—such as corn and barley—are renewable.
There are some issues with ethanol, however, that students in automotive technology training should be aware of. It contains less energy than gasoline, resulting in lower miles per gallon. It can also take a lot of energy to produce, and may have negative economic and social consequences, as it diverts corn from the food supply and drives up its cost.
As Students in Auto Technology School May Already Know, Electricity Is King
Electric cars are the current reigning champions of alternative fuel-powered vehicles. Electricity is efficient, clean, and already has a robust network for charging, at least in major cities. Until recently, electric cars weren’t a viable mode of transportation because of limited battery power and long charging times. With new battery technology, those are no longer concerns. For the time being, electricity is still the golden standard of alternative fuels.
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