Biodiesel: A renewable fuel synthesised from
crop oil such as that of Rapeseed, Sunflowers and Soybeans, but
waste cooking oils can also be used to produce it. This means you
can make your own. You’ll be just like Walt from Breaking Bad! Just
watch out for those poisonous fumes. Biodiesel produces
significantly less CO2 emissions that regular Diesel, however; it
can produce higher Oxides of Nitrogen (Smog to you and I) than some
types of Diesel. Cars often run on a blend of Bio and conventional
Diesel though some can use a 100% mix. Biodiesel is the most widely
available Bio-fuel in the UK and, according to Uk
Energy Saving, by 2013 all Diesel cars in the UK will be
configured to run on Biodiesel.
Bioethanol: It’s Alcohol, but don’t be
mixing it with ginger ale, ice and lime. It’s typically produced
from Sugarcane, Cereal Crops or Sugarbeet. Bioethanol is safe for
use in modified petrol engines or FFV’s (Fuel Flex Vehicles).
Again, this stuff is renewable and, predictably, is better for the
environment than both petrol and diesel. There are downsides of
course. Bioethanol filling stations are currently few and far
between. Also, you’re going to have to pay more for the privilege
of owning a car that can run on this renewable. There are also
potential drawbacks to mass growing crops for its production but
we’re sure somebody’s working on that right now.
Biogas: One of the most effective (and
disgusting) alternatives to Petrol and Diesel. A mix of mainly
Methane and Carbon Dioxide, the two main methods of getting hold of
Biogas are: extracting it from landfill sites, or, something called
Anaerobic Digestion, which sounds like the name of a Death Metal
band. Either way it involves dealing with either decomposing
rubbish or sewage, so as we said, disgusting. On paper, Biogas
sounds great: 60% reduction on CO2 compared to Diesel (approx),
lower Nitrous Oxide emissions and negligible particulate emissions.
In practice, at time of writing there are no manufacturers
producing Biogas friendly cars for the UK.
Fuel Cell: The brainchild of one Sir
William Grove in 1839. Yes, 1839. These cells are typically used by
people like NASA, rather than people like Ford. However, that could
all be set to change as there are a great many environmental
benefits to be gleaned from using such a method to power a car; the
only admissions being heat and water vapour! Trouble is that it is
all very costly and the UK is yet to develop a means of widespread
LPG: LPG stands for Liquid Petroleum Gas and
can offer a significant reduction in emissions. LPG can offer a 10%
reduction on CO2 compared to petrol and a whopping 80% reduced
Nitrogen output when compared to Diesel engines. Disappointingly,
the CO2 compared to Diesel is 10% higher but you can’t have it all
(unless you’ve got a Hydrogen fuelled rocket car, obviously). You
can convert your car to run on LPG for a not insignificant fee
(£1500 approx), or simply arrange for your new car to be converted
upon purchase. A handy guide to conversion can be found
Natural Gas: This stuff is usually used
for cooking, however it can be stored under pressure and can then
power vehicles. Typically, Natural Gas is being used to power
larger vehicles such as HGVs, buses etc. There are a variety of
different advantages to using natural gas as a fuel, including:
reduction in engine noise, reduction in emissions and if you’re in
London, you’ll be exempt from that pesky congestion charge!
Hopefully we’ll see this getting used more for smaller vehicles in
the near future then.
Pure Plant Oil: Pure plant oil is made,
perhaps unsurprisingly, by crushing plants. It was first utilised,
very surprisingly, by a chap called Rudolf Diesel in 1912. His
first ever engine was able to run on peanut oil. Again, not widely
used in the UK, pure plant oil reduces some emissions. However, it
is thought that overall emissions are largely the same as when
using traditionally fuelling methods. The UK also has no refuelling
network for Pure Plant Oil, although it is widely used in European
countries like Germany.
Image courtesy of: Sean.