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The future of alternative fuel vehicles

The hunt is on for alternative sources to power vehicles due to rising fuel costs and high carbon emissions that traditional gasoline or diesel powered engines produce. Reducing dependency on non-renewable resources such as oil is another reason giving rise to alternative fuel vehicles. However, many are wondering if vehicles run on alternative fuel are efficient and cost-effective.

Hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles

Hybrid vehicles use a combination of electricity generators and gasoline to fuel the engine of the vehicles. Although in the strictest sense, hybrid cars cannot be considered as alternative fuel vehicles, they have lower carbon emissions and do not affect overall driving performance. Plug-in HEV, however, are closer to the concept of electric cars since they need to be plugged in to get the batteries recharged.

Electric vehicles

Electric cars use electricity drawn from batteries to power an electric motor. Limited range, lengthy charging times, and purchase costs are issues affecting the appeal of electric cars to consumers.

Solar powered vehicles

Solar-powered vehicles are still in the experimental stage. These cars run on solar power drawn from solar power cells mounted on the vehicles. At this time, solar power alone cannot power a car, but helps improve or complement the source of energy for electric cars.

Flexi-fuel or dual-fuel vehicle

It uses a mixture of gasoline and methanol or methanol alcohol in one tank. To date, Brazil has the most number of vehicles running on flexi-fuel followed by the US, Canada, and Sweden.

Bi-fuel vehicle

Two separate tanks hold the fuel in these types of vehicles. The fuel can either be liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), hydrogen or compressed natural gas (CNG).

Hydrogen fuel-cell powered vehicle

It uses hydrogen in two ways: burning to attain combustion or as ‘fuel-cell’ conversion. In the latter process, hydrogen is converted into electricity to supply power to the engine. Honda FCX Clarity, BMW (Clean Energy), Daimler, Chrysler, VW, GM, and Ford are a few examples of car manufacturers investing in hydrogen powered cars. However, fuel-cells are costly to produce and replace.

Life cycle of alternative fuel vehicles

Alternative fuel vehicles continue to be in the spotlight because of the need to look for different ways to reduce dependence on traditional fossil fuels. In addition, as carbon emissions continue to be an environmental concern, it is imperative to search for viable ways to fuel vehicles cost-effectively. As technologies are fine-tuned to address these glaring issues, car manufacturers in cooperation with governments and regulatory bodies continue to search for clean, alternative fuel to comply with stringent regulations and maintain markets. However, alternative fuel vehicles should also be looked as a whole from design and research to production and after life use.

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