So many different types of alternative fuels are being developed, that itís a very exciting time, somewhat like it must have been when the many varieties of crude cameras were being developed in the 19th century.
The primary goal is to produce fewer emissions, which not only are harmful to the air we breathe, but are also screwing up the planet in general. Another major goal is to reduce our dependence on oil, which is rapidly being depleted, partially resulting in unfathomable price hikes. Plus, the less we are dependent on foreign sources of oil, the better, for painfully obvious reasons.
In addition to hybrid cars, which use a combination of a gasoline engine with an electric motor powered by a battery, there are also flex-fuel vehicles, bi-fuel vehicles and converted vehicles which all allow you to use some form of alternative fuel, either alone or in combination with gasoline or diesel. Even plug-in electric hybrids are being developed which can use gasoline mixed with other fuels as a back-up source to electricity.
Types of alternative fuels used in cars include electricity, biodiesel, natural gas (methane), ethanol, methanol (wood alcohol), propane, hydrogen gas, and p-series fuels.
Biodiesel can be combined with petroleum diesel. Biodiesel is made from animal fats or vegetable oil, so we can produce it right here in the United States. It burns cleaner than pure diesel.
Electricity can come from fuel cells or a battery, and can be combined with gasoline for the most common hybrid car. There are all-electric cars, plug-in hybrids (which can acquire electricity from an outlet in your garage), or fuel cell cars.
Ethanol, otherwise known as E85, is usually combined with regular gasoline in various percentages. This is alcohol based and made from biomass or grains, such as wheat or corn. Since we can easily produce that, it frees us from foreign dependence on oil. It also burns cleaner. Flex-fuel vehicles that use 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline are already out there on the roads in several models.
Methanol was being combined with gasoline, but may be used in fuel-cell cars in the future. It comes from coal.
Natural gas, or methane, can power certain cars, which can run on either natural gas or gasoline, depending on what is available. It can be gotten from landfills, natural gas fields, or as a byproduct of oil drilling or coal mining. It must be compressed or liquefied to use in an automobile. It is possible to have bi-fuel vehicles, which run on regular gasoline or natural gas.
P-Series fuels are clear and can be used alone or combined with gasoline.
Hydrogen as fuel for cars is still in development. Hydrogen comes from water, which is still plentiful on this earth. It can be harnessed from petroleum refining in the form of natural gas, or it can come from running electricity through water. It must be converted to liquid or highly compressed to store it in the car, so it looks like it will be used mainly to power fuel cells in electric vehicles. It can also be mixed with natural gas for certain engines.
We usually think of propane as a fuel for camping lanterns and stoves, but it can also be used to power a car. It is a byproduct of natural gas and crude oil refining.
The more that these alternative fuels are used, the more that standard gasoline vehicles will stand out for their foul, smelly exhaust, until it will become positively embarrassing, (not to mention prohibitively expensive), to continue driving around harming the environment with one. Letís hope that time comes soon.