Alternative Fuel: What it is. Fuel economy. Best fuel alternative.

Alternative Fuel: What it is. Fuel economy. Best fuel alternative.

Ever considered a fuel alternative?

We didn’t think so either…

As motorists, we have become conditioned into thinking that gasoline-powered engines, such as petrol and diesel, are the only two options we have in terms of selecting a combustion-engine when we buy a car for cash from a second-hand private car sale or from a dealership.

But, did you know that world currently has dozens of alternative fuel in production or under development to power vehicle - some of which have been derived from renewable resources to reduce the toxic CO2 emissions polluting the Earth’s atmosphere.

So, what exactly are ‘alternative fuels’?

Just as your body needs food to ensure you have enough energy to take on the day, a car needs fuel in order to drive. But, you probably already new that. Essentially, replacing food with a food supplement is exactly the same as replacing fuel with something other than the traditional petroleum or diesel fuel, for example, electricity-powered vehicles or solar-powered vehicles.

The green environment revolution has become top priority for countries, governments and manufacturers across the world. This is mainly due to:

  • The eyebrow-raising need for cleaner fuels and less emissions
  • High oil prices and the fluctuation in oil prices
  • The need for advanced power systems

It’s easy to think of hybrid cars as an alternative to fuel vehicles, however hybrid vehicles have been technologically engineered to include both an electric battery and motor to offer more fuel efficiency and less fuel emissions than the average motor vehicle.

  1. 1979 manufactured 5.7-million neat-ethanol light vehicles.
  2. 2003 saw a 3.0-million increase in neat-ethanol vehicle sales.
  3. December 2011 bought 1.22-million neat-ethanol vehicles.December 2013 sold 24.9-million LPG-powered vehicles in Turkey, South Korea and Poland.
  4. June 2014 experienced a 1.35-million growth in hybrid sales.
  5. August 2015 sold 22.7-million natural gas vehicles in China, Iran, Pakistan, Argentina, India and Brazil.
  6. April 2016 witnessed over 12-million hybrid electric vehicles being sold globally, with market leaders including Japan, United States and Europe.
  7. December 2016 witnessed Brazil, United States, Canada and Sweden take 116-million sold alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles to the streets - that was less motor vehicles on the world’s roads.
  8. January 2017 saw the Toyota Motor Company and Honda Motor Co., Ltd. sell more than 10-million Lexus and hybrid cars.
  9. Tesla’s S Model is currently the world’s second best-selling all-electric car with over 150000 cars sold since December 2016.
  10. The Nissan Leaf is currently reigning as the world’s top-seller in electric plug-in cars, with  more than 250000 vehicles sold since December 2016.
  11. China is currently the world’s largest market for electric cars, as 645000 plug-ins take the streets - the US is currently in second position, boasting 570000 plug-in electric cars sold in December 2016

Although hybrid and plug-in electric vehicles are dominating the alternative fuel vehicle market, there are several alternative fuel options on heating up on the flower-power bandwagon. CarZar.co.za provides a few facts about fuel alternatives that are exchanging blows for first choice on car buyers’ lists.

SINGLE FUEL SOURCES

1. Engine Air Compressor:

  • A piston engine which uses compressed air as an energy source.
  • Operates by using the environment’s heat at normal to warm temperatures, or cold air expanded from the storage tank - a non-adiabatic expansion which increases efficiency.
  • The exhaust is cold air at a temperature of -15°C - also used to air condition the car.
  • The air source is a pressurized carbon-fibre tank and is delivered to the engine through an injection system.
  • The engine has been designed to increase the charge time of warm air.

2. Battery-electric:

  • Otherwise know as zero emission, ‘all-electric vehicles’.
  • The main energy storage is in the chemical energy of batteries.
  • Electrical energy is used to power the motors, as well as retrieved from battery chemistries arranged into battery packs.
  • The batteries consist of flooded lead-acid, absorbed glass mat, NiCd, nickel metal hydride, Li-ion, Li-poly and zinc-air batteries.

It is important to note that the recharge limit of lead-acid batteries can be reduced if consistently discharged above 75% - making NiMH batteries a much better option. But, if you’re seeking excellent range and powerful performance, then we’d suggest to blindfold your eyes on a Lithium-ion battery purchase.

Most people are muddled about what exactly a solar-powered vehicle is - some say it’s a car powered by the sun. Well, that’s partially true.

Solar cars are essentially electric vehicles powered by the vehicle’s solar panels - thus, simply used to extend the range of an EV. But, ‘solar EV’s’ have proven their worth through various race competitions which have taken place throughout the United States and Australia to showcase the engineering, long range, efficiency and high-tech skills of major solar-powered car brands, such as Honda and General Motors.

 

3. Dimethyl Ether (DME) fuel:

  • DME is a synthetic second-gen biofuel (BioDME), manufactured from Lignocellulosic biomass.
  • An alternative fuel supported by diesel engines, petrol engines which include 30% DME and 70% LPG, and gas turbines which include 55 cetane.
  • The process of burning DME involves a short carbon chain compound which leads during combustion to very low emissions of matter such as NOx and CO.
  • Dimethyl ether is sulfur-free and meets the Europe, U.S. and Japan emission regulations - the European Union is currently in light of using BioDME in its biofuel mix in 2030.

 

4. Ammonia fuel:

  • It’s as simple as gaseous hydrogen from natural gas, combined with the air’s nitrogen.
  • Ammonia-fuelled motors using working fluid have already been used sporadically; however, more in the UK, New Orleans and Canada - Canadian developers boast its success of Ammonia and GreenNH3 in diesel engines.
  • Currently the only green fuel to power jet engines.
  • The density of ammonia-fuel matches half that of petrol and diesel, and can be made from renewable electricity.
  • As an alternative to fossil fuel, Ammonia is under nomination for replacement inside internal combustion engines - Ammonia can be utilised within current engines, with slight changes to the vehicle’s fuel injectors.

5. Biofuels: Bio-alcohol and ethanol:

  • Ethanol fuel is essentially a biomass fuel - it therefore devotes itself to greenhouse gases and climate change.
  • Both ethanol and methanol can be acquired from petroleum or natural gas, however, ethanol is considered to be more of a ‘renewable resource’ easily obtainable from sugar or starch, grain, sugarcane, sugar beets or lactose.
  • Most gasoline-running modern cars are able to circuit with a blend of up to 15% of ethanol mixed with gasoline.
  • Gasoline-powered engines are able to run on an ethanol concentration level of 85% in cold weather and 100% in warm climates.
  • Although ethanol has 34% less energy per volume than gasoline, there is no reduction in the vehicle’s mileage, many other factors affect a fuel’s performance in an engine and ethanol has a higher octane rating.
  • Prices fluctuate according to the ethanol fuel blend, seasonal sugarcane harvests and region.

6. Biodiesel:

  • Diesel combustion engines have 44% more fuel burning efficiency, higher energy density and much better fuel economy than gasoline cars.
  • Formally known as ‘fatty acid methyl ester’, biodiesel can be obtained from oilseeds - farmers who harvest oilseeds use a biodiesel blend in tractors and equipment.
  • In order for biodiesel to keep up with fossil diesel fuel, the car’s diesel injection system has to be reset to account for the higher Cetane value of biodiesel, due to its low density.
  • Produces lower emissions than diesel engines, as biodiesel possess more oxygen and higher lubricity.
  • Chemically processed to PH neutrality and low viscosity.

7. Biogas:

Biogas is often scrunched up for use within internal combustion engines after the raw gas is purified. During the summer season, the waste heat coming from power plants - which are powered by biogas - cannot be used; making it interesting for the climate.

8. Charcoal:

Charcoal is obtained from a continuous carbonisation process, by removing water and other volatile constituents from animal and vegetation substances.

9. Compressed Natural Gas (CNG):

  • Composed of methane used to fuel petroleum and diesel combustion engines.
  • Out of all fossil fuels, methane combustion generates the least CO2.
  • Gasoline-running cars can become biofuel natural gas vehicles if retrofitted to compressed natural gas - allowing the motorist to alternate between CNG and gasoline.
  • Most commonly used in Italy, New Zealand, Iran, Pakistan, Brazil, China, India, Asia-Pacific regions, Argentina, Ukraine, Armenia, Russia and Germany; while and CNG buses commonly are used in the United States, India, Germany, Argentina and Australia.

10. Formic acid:

Not only is formic acid easier to store than hydrogen, it only takes 2 simple steps to use formic acid:

  • Step 1: Convert it to hydrogen.
  • Step 2: Use it in a fuel cell.

11. Hydrogen:

  • The average internal combustion engines can
  • In hydrogen cars, despite water as a byproduct, there are 2 methods used for to power locomotion:
  • Fuel cell conversion - the hydrogen is turned into electricity, through fuel cells, to power the motor. The hydrogen will, essentially, react with the fuel cell’s oxygen to create electricity.
  • Combustion conversion - the hydrogen is burned in the engine and combustion with air produce NOx.
  • The average internal combustion engine can be converted to a hydrogen-using fuel cells and an electric motor.
  • The range of hydrogen vehicles can be increased by hydrogen storage such as metal hydrides and compression, and reducing weight and energy consumption.
  • Hydrogen technologies are capable of delivering near-zero emissions, however cost, policy and performance remain a current issue.
  • A wide variety of transportation are already able to run on hydrogen - buses, trains, PHB bicycles, canal boats, cargo bikes, golf carts, motorcycles, wheelchairs, ships, airplanes, submarines and rockets.
  • Apart from BMW’s devotion to hydrogen combustion, automakers such as Chrysler, Daimler, Ford, GM, Honda, Hyundai/Kia, Nissan, Toyota and VW, have invested in hydrogen fuel cells.

12. Liquid nitrogen (LN2):

  • A method of energy storing.
  • Energy liquefies air, producing liquid nitrogen through evaporation and distribution.
  • Exposed to car heat and creating nitrogen gas to power a piston or turbine engine.
  • Only 213 Watt-hours per kg or 173 Watt-hours per kg of energy can be extracted from LN2.
  • A maximum of 70 Watt-hours per kg can be used with an isothermal expansion process, however this can be improved to 110 Watt-hours per kg with a quasi-isothermal expansion process.
  • Produces zero toxic emissions and a high energy density, in comparison to compressed air vehicles.

13. Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG):

  • A natural gas cooled to a cryogenic liquid.
  • More than Twice times as dense as highly compressed CNG and able to drift long ranges, due to its high energy density.
  • Able to function on any vehicle capable of burning natural gas.
  • Stored at low pressure and vaporised by heat exchangers, before entering the fuel metering devices to the engine.
  • Pipeline natural gas is liquefied in large amounts - similar to refining gas or diesel. A semi trailer then carries the LNG to fuel stations to be stored in bulk tanks until dispensed into a vehicle.

14. Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG)

  • A low pressure liquefied gas mixture.
  • Composed of propane and butane - these burn in conventional gasoline combustion engines with less CO2.
  • Can become bifuel vehicles if retrofitted to LPG - allowing you to alternate between LP and gasoline during your drive.
  • Prominently used in Turkey, Poland, South Korea and the United States.
  • The Hyundai Elantra LPI Hybrid is the world’s first LPG-run vehicle.

15. Steam

  • A vehicle with a steam engine, which can be fuelled by wood, ethanol and coal - among others.
  • Fuel is burned within a burner, where water is converted into steam that expands - creating pressure which push the vehicle’s pistons back and forth, and in turn, causing the driveshaft to move the wheels.
  • Although expensive, steam cars boast a speed more than 161 km/h and fast acceleration.
  • The steam vehicle’s external combustion engine blows its horn with 50% to 60% fuel efficiency in a combined cycle steam engine - practical steam engine cars can only manifest 5% to 8% efficiency.
  • Refrigeration-developed steam can be operated by a turbine in other cars to produce electricity in electric motors.
  • A hybrid can be produced by combining steam power with an oil-based engine, and injecting water into the cylinder after the fuel-burning process is complete - after which the water will be vaporised into steam.

16. Wood gas

Wood gas may seem a bit strange to think about as an alternative to fuel. However, it’s as simple as attaching a wood gasifier to your internal combustion engine car, and you’re off to saving on expensive oil, as well as a much more efficient vehicle.

MULTIPLE FUEL SOURCES

1. Flexible Fuel Vehicle (FFV)

  • A light duty truck with a multifuel engine which can burn more than one fuel in the same combustion chamber.
  • Most flex-fuel vehicles run on ethanol and methanol.
  • Ethanol FFVs have standard gas engines which combines ethanol and gasoline in the same tank - the “E” number represents the ethanol percentage in the mixture; for example, E85.
  • E85 FFVs are generally endowed with an automated sensor which can detect the mixture of the fuel, by signaling the ECU to tune spark timing and fuel injection in order for the fuel to ensure a clean burn inside the engine.
  • Popular markets for flex-fuels includ Brazil, Sweden, Canada and the United States.
  • There is no price difference between pure gas and flex-fuels; however, in the U.S. automakers receive ‘fuel economy credit’ for every flex-fuel vehicle sold.

2. Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV):

  • Makes use of propulsion systems to provide motive power.
  • The gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle uses petrol and electric batteries to power its small electric motor and internal combustion engine for acceleration and other maneuvers.
  • Popular markets for the HEV include Japan, United States, Europe, South Korea and the rest of the globe.

3. Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV)

There’s not much to say about the Plug-in HEV, except that it’s literally a conversion of the conventional hybrid electric vehicle. Just as the normal HEV, the popular markets for the PHEV include the U.S., China, Japan and Europe.

4. Pedal-assisted electric hybrid vehicle

If there is one thing that this automobile depends on, it is you! The pedal-assisted hybrid electric vehicle can have a long-lasting battery if you allow it to. The HEV has a lower demand for power - relying on human power to help make a remarkable improvement on its battery life.

Let’s take a step back to the main purpose of alternative fuels - to encourage the reduction of toxic CO2 emissions.

A comparative environmental and energy analysis of a vehicle’s fuel end use has revealed that the cost of carbon dioxide emissions, and non-renewable and renewable unit energy costs, are perfect measures for testing the impact on the environment and the intensity of renewable energy consumption, as well as counting the transportation sector’s thermodynamic performance.

The analysis can be utilised for the purpose of developing better energy policies, as energy conversion can be ranked along with vehicle fuel production. For example:

  • Since sugarcane has a low efficiency in energy conversion, better production and technology are required.
  • If there is a major drop in CO2 emissions in the transport sector, the Brazilian transport sector will require more ethanol use.
  • An 80% renewable Brazilian electricity mix will be able to decrease greenhouse gas emitted by the transport sector, drastically.

The Automobile Association has created a list of fuel price fluctuations, to help manage your fuel expenses.

Petrol prices for 2017:

Diesel prices for 2017:

Switching from fossil fuels to alternative fuels can seem as like a new, life-altering experience… Well, it is! You’ll be creating a clean, emission-free environment, as well as a drive a fuel-efficient vehicle.

If you do not want to speed into flogging your high-pollution second-hand vehicle for a greener one, then consider the pros and cons of alternative fuels.

Hybrids

  • Pros: Uses existing gasoline supplies, thus no noticeable change in lifestyle habits and has excellent fuel economy.
  • Cons: Most hybrids are expensive and some do not live up to the buyer’s mileage expectations.

Plug-in Hybrids

  • Pros: The gas engine can extend for long distance traveling, has home recharging infrastructure, inexpensive costs per mile and zero emission when driving in an all-electric mode.
  • Cons: Charging during the day can strain the electric grid, it’s big engine and battery raises the cost of the vehicle and gas-mileage limits depend on the driving habits.

Battery Electric Vehicles

  • Pros: Zero emissions, torque is instantaneous, provides a silent drive, not as pricey, electricity can be retrieved from renewable resources and electricity infrastructure is widespread.
  • Cons: Recharging time is long, batteries are expensive, range is limited, majority of electricity produced is coal and public chargers may be scarce.

Diesel

  • Pros: Low premium costs, 30% better fuel economy, can run on a mix of renewable biodiesel fuel and provides a lot of talk.
  • Cons: Loud engine, more expensive, clean diesels require urea refills, consistent fluctuations in diesel fuel prices.

Biodiesel blends

  • Pros: Old cars find it easy to burn biodiesel or diesel, renewable and used vegetable oil are sometimes free.
  • Cons:  Conversion of vegetable oil is pricey, more expensive than petroleum diesel and issues in supply.

Ethanol

  • Pros: Decreased emissions, may be produced from waste materials, high octane level, less demand for foreign oil, vehicles can currently use 10% blends (E10) - including E85.
  • Cons: E85 has 25% less fuel economy than gasoline and ethanol manufactured from food crops can heighten food prices.

Compressed Natural Gas

  • Pros: Less pricey, power produced correlates to that of gasoline engines, cleaner burn and widespread.
  • Cons: Less trunk space caused by the huge gas tanks, limited range and not many refuelling stations.

Hydrogen Fuel Cells

  • Pros: H2O is the only emission, excellent fuel economy, widespread and can be manufactured from renewable energy.
  • Cons: Expensive, requires high pressure and hydrogen storage for an expected range, not many refuelling stations and the process of creating the hydrogen fuel develops large amounts of CO2.

In case you’re still on the backburner about selling your car for a car which uses zero-emission alternative fuel, CarZar.co.za provides a few tips on how to save fuel:

  1. Have your tyre pressure checked and adjusted at your local refuelling station.
  2. Lighten your trunk load.
  3. Use the high quality, clean fuel such as alternative fuels.
  4. Avoid idling your car for long periods of time.
  5. Ease your foot on the accelerator.
  6. If the journey is short, take a walk.
  7. Change down a gear and reduce your drag.
  8. Make sure your car gets its regular servicing when appropriate.
  9. Turn your aircon off.
  10. Try to not stop-start your vehicle while driving.

Every time you get behind the wheel, there’s an opportunity to save fuel. But, why worry about the hassle of remembering to do fuel saving vehicle checks when you can simply improve the fuel economy of your car?

Did you know? At CarZar, we buy cars for cash.

Get a free online value for your vehicle on www.carzar.co.za. If you’re happy with your car quote, you can book an obligation-free inspection at your convenience and if you decide to sell your second-hand car to CarZar, we’ll make an instant payment.

Disclaimer: The above information is simply a guide. CarZar will not be held responsible for any changes to the above information.

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