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Alternative Fuel Sources for Vehicles

Could the reason be money why people today are considering alternative energy sources for their cars? The price of oil remains to be volatile and many people sure miss those days when the cost of gasoline was not a consideration and driving gas guzzlers were not a big deal. As more people feel the pinch on their pockets, many are opting for alternative fuels that will give them some savings.


Traditionally, people filled their tanks with gasoline or diesel. If they wish to not use either, they will have to use alternative fuel sources for their cars. This means driving electric-powered cars, buying hybrid cars that run on gasoline and electricity, or installing solar panels on their vehicles. The latest to hit the auto industry are cars that run on water.

Manufacturers as supported by their governments are encouraged to produce vehicles that run on alternative fuels because of a number of factors. For one, taxes on petroleum products have been increased, especially in European countries. Then, many governments have passed several laws related to pollution and the environment, and news are that further restrictions will be imposed on greenhouse gas emissions.

There are mounting calls about global warming, the continued rise in the earth’s temperature. The primary cause is the increasing amount of greenhouse gases in the earth's atmosphere. While there are many that account for greenhouse gases including flatulence of cows (for man’s favorite, hamburger), one culprit identified is the use of fossil fuels in factories and vehicles. Fumes from their exhaust release carbon dioxide, a leading greenhouse gas.

Many vehicles have been converted to run on liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), a mixture of propane and butane that take on a liquid form upon compression. LPG is more cost-efficient than either gasoline or diesel and is said to emit very little carbon monoxide. Still, some cars are fueled by ethanol, others are solar powered, and a number use fuel cells.

Solar-powered cars use sunlight for its source of energy. Solar panels are installed, usually on the roof, to collect sunlight and convert it to electrical energy that will make the car run.

Ethanol, also called grain alcohol, is produced by fermenting the juice of plants with high sugar levels or crops with high carbohydrate content like sugar beets, sugar cane, corn, and wheat. The use of ethanol fuel is said to reduce emissions of toxic gases by as much as 30% as against the other fuels that power vehicles.

One country that gained much advancements because of ethanol is Brazil. The country started its ethanol production in 1975 using its sugar cane. Total savings since then has been reported to reach close to $2 billion, coming from the substitution of their oil consumption of 200,000 barrels a day. The benefits Brazil gets from ethanol also include trade revenues from exporting ethanol-powered vehicles to Japan and Sweden. The country's expanded auto industry has created well over 900,000 jobs for Brazilians.

The use of fuel cells in cars involves electrochemical conversion where hydrogen is reacted with oxygen to produce electricity that powers the electric traction motor. The output is only heat and water, making hydrogen-powered cars the cleanest cars in terms of gas emission.
There are two types of motors running on different energy sources in hybrid cars. Perhaps the most popular hybrid car is the Toyota Prius. It uses state-of-the-art technology in combining an electric motor and a small, traditional engine that runs on gas. The Prius uses the electric motor when running at slow speed but once it increases it speed, say on the freeway, the car gets to use both the gasoline engine and the electric motors. The process also charges the battery at the same time.

For reasons more than money, people should start making the move to drive vehicles that are more energy-efficient and use alternative energy sources. Doing so will help them not only to save on gas money but also to help save the planet.

Solar Power and Wind Energy