Fuel is no longer a simple business of filling up your car when it needs it. Instead, there are now multiple options to choose from when you reach the pumps, and sometimes these seem so complicated that you find yourself longing for the days when it was just a choice between Diesel and Petrol, nothing more.
Because there are so many weird and wonderful fuelling optionsnowadays (only some of which you will actually be able to get from the petrol station), I thought it may be interesting to have a brief update on some of those options, so that you know what’s what. If you agree, read on to be introduced to the weird and wonderful world of alternative fuels…
According to Wikipedia, LPG is a low-carbon-emitting hydrocarbon fuel available in rural areas, emitting 81% of the CO2per kWh produced by oil, 70% of that of coal, and less than 50% of that emitted by coal-generated electricity distributed via the grid. This means, in essence, that is a cheaper and more environmentally friendly alternative to normal fuels, and quite a lot of cars can be relatively simply converted to run on it. The limitations? LPG isn’t be any means available anywhere…
Biologically produced alcohol are becoming more and more popular by the minute, and Ethanol is by far the front runner. Of course, running a car on alcohol doesn’t mean that you can make use of that left over bottle of Hoch! Ethanol can be used in petrol engines as a replacement for gasoline; and it can be combined with it too. Most existing car petrol engines can run on blends of up to 15% bioethanol with petroleum/gasoline. Bear in mind though, it takes more ethanol than petrol to produce energy – thus you will use it up faster.
We have all heard the stories of people running their cars on left over Fish & Chips fat, and the smells that it produces! Oils and fats can be hydrogenated to give a diesel substitute, or used straight dependant on the car (of course!). According to Wikipedia, font of all knowledge, the resulting product is a straight chain hydrocarbon, high in cetane, low in aromatics and sulfur and does not contain oxygen.
Yes, you heard me right. Algae. It seems that nothing is safe from being converted into a biofuel in this eco-conscious era! Algae are low-input, high-yield feedstocks for producing biofuels, and some crops can even be kept alive producing ethanol over and over. This makes this quite a popular idea for the future of alternative fuels, although Algae based fuels aren’t going to be common place for a good while yet!
A bit of an anticlimax following an algae based fuel, Biodiesel is one that we will probably all have heard of. Biodiesel is the most common biofuel in Europe. It is produced from oils or fats using *warning, fancy word here!* “transesterification” and is a liquid similar in composition to fossil/mineral diesel. Chemically, it consists mostly of fatty acid methyl (or ethyl) esters (FAMEs). This is the fuel that you will have heard of in the news, made from things like Soybeans – and possibly causing more damage than the fuels themselves in the very act of growing them!
There are course, many more fuels. But these are the main ones. Do any of you use them?
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