Alternative Fuels for Transportation

There is a global desire to reduce the use of petroleum-based fuels, such as gasoline and diesel, which has sparked the creation of vehicles that can run on alternative fuels.

Ethanol

Ethanol is derived from fermented grain sugars and is typically blended with gasoline for use in vehicles. It is available as an alternative fuel in two mixtures: 15% ethanol (E15) and 85% ethanol (E85.) Almost all gasoline in the United States has up to 10% ethanol (E10), but E10 is not considered an alternative fuel as outlined in the Energy Policy Act of 1992. Most gas stations sell E15 and E85.

Compressed Natural Gas

Among the popular new fuels is compressed natural gas (CNG.) Consequently, there is an increasing need for CNG fueling station construction. CNG is natural gas that is compressed to less than 1% of its volume at standard atmospheric pressure. While CNG has been in use in passenger vehicles for many years, it is gaining popularity in heavy-duty transportation such as buses and over-the-road trucks.

Electricity

Electric vehicles are becoming popular due to their lack of emissions, and technological advancements have increased their driving range and power. However, the batteries can be heavy (increasing weight load and reducing mileage) and are not easy to dispose of in an environmentally friendly manner. Charging stations for electric vehicles are becoming more widely available.

Hydrogen

Hydrogen fuel is used to power space shuttles, but it is still uncommon in terrestrial vehicles. A chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen in a fuel cell creates electricity, with heat and water as the only by-products. In early 2020 there were only approximately 44 hydrogen fueling stations in the US, most of them in California.

As technology advances and the desire for zero-emission vehicles increases, alternative fuels will no longer be alternative but will become the new normal.