5 Alternative Fuel Types You May Not Have Heard Of

The BP oil again brings some of the danger of petroleum based fuel to the forefront. During the last decade there have been an onslaught of changes to the automobile industry. Many gasoline stations mix in ethanol in with standard gasoline to reduce emissions, hybrid cars such as the Prius have begun to dominate the market when purchasing a new vehicle. America is also about to see the next wave in electric cars and improved hybrids, the Chevy Volt and the Nissan LEAF will be available soon; Tesla Motors, a company devoted to all-electric cars, grows larger every day. But for those who still have an eye towards the future, here are 5 other alternative types of fuel for automobiles.

Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the galaxy. If it can properly extracted it can be used to fuel an internal combustion engine, or it placed in a fuel cell to power an electric motor. Nearly every major automobile manufacturer is researching hydrogen powered cars. However, due to the large costs associated with drawing usable hydrogen from non fossil sources, most companies say that mass-market hydrogen powered cars won’t be available for several decades.

Natural Gas is a substance used every day in households across the world. In cars, Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) or Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) is used to fuel an internal combustion engine. There are currently over 11 million Natural Gas Powered vehicles in the world, with the majority in South America and Southeast Asia. Many of these cars are regular gasoline engines that have been refitted to use natural gas exclusively or many cars can use both types of fuel. In the U.S. Many buses use this technology. Honda has released the Honda Civic GX, which is the only natural gas powered car available in the US. Other car companies have released cars powered by Natural Gas in other countries. Natural Gas is still a fossil fuel, but natural occurring bio gas from waste water and landfills can be easily mixed into natural gas. The biggest obstacles facing natural gas powered cars are the large amounts of space the fuel requires and creating a distribution system across America.

Compressed Air Engines take compressed air and then release it to move pistons and power the engine. This technology would produce zero emissions since it is powered by air itself. Electric power would be required to regulate air temperature, making its environmental impact similar to that of an electric car. The cars could be refueled from home with an air compressor or at many service stations who already offer air as a service. Air engines have some drawbacks, they are vulnerable to changes in temperature and climate, refueling could take several hours, and the cars have very limited range before needing to refuel. Several companies are developing prototype cars, but nothing has been released to the mass market as of yet.

Steam engines were the very first means of fueling a car, like in a steam-powered train, water is boiled at a rapid rate and the resulting rising steam is used to power the engine. These cars require a less complex transmission and is very quiet compared to the loud roar of an internal combustion engine. However, these cars are much heavier than those equipped with a combustion engine due to the large boiler required to boil the water. These cars also require frequent refueling. There are still many steam enthusiasts designing cars. In 2009 the more than 100 year old speed record for a steam powered car was broken in the British Steam Car challenge, reaching speeds greater than 140 miles per hour.

Liquid Nitrogen engines take liquid nitrogen and heats it to create a high pressure gas that can be used to power an engine. A liquid nitrogen tank has the advantage that it can be recycled far more easily than any kind of battery. The greatest potential with liquid nitrogen would be to take the nitrogen present in the atmosphere and cool it to create the fuel source. A liquid nitrogen engine has been criticized for being inefficient because the amount of electricity that would be required to convert and cool nitrogen to be used for fuel would be too great. Currently Nitrogen Powered Cars are only developed on an experimental basis, college teams often create an experimental engine or automobile companies have built prototypes to explore the technology but it appears there are no current plans to make a nitrogen powered car.

Hybrid and electric cars are receiving the most attention at the moment. But in the battle to save the planet, there is always a need to explore other options. Those who wish to usher in the next wave of environment-friendly technology should enroll in degrees preparing them to save the earth.

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