Going as far back as WWII, cars have been powered by everything from charcoal to steam. Putting something else in the tank besides gasoline isn’t exactly a new concept, but petrol has been the world standard since the first Model T’s rolled off the line. You don’t have to be Al Gore to at least think that gasoline isn’t going to be powering our cars forever.
The hallmark of American ingenuity is taking what works and making it even better. There’s no reason that we can’t point that ingenuity toward making alternative fuels for our beloved automobiles. Here’s a look at five up and coming fuels that we could be seeing at the pump in the future:
This is actually a viable idea for some smaller vehicles and motorcycles. First invented by French engineer Guy Negre, compressed air engines take advantage of super-cooled air to turn pistons. Not incredibly efficient for all vehicles, it could be a practical way to make inner-city short commutes much better for the air quality of the city. Not exactly the most exciting of alternative fuels, but a practical look at using a readily available resource for good.
Water fuel is inefficient to manufacture, but could be a good investment for the future. Since water is just hydrogen and oxygen, you can separate the two via electrolysis and burn the hydrogen. Not exactly practical to carry a tank of water around in your vehicle along with an electrolysis machine that converts it into hydrogen, but it is a real possibility that gas stations could be converted into “electrolysis stations” wherein you could just fill up with hydrogen instead of gasoline at the pump. The only byproduct of burning hydrogen is water, so this could go a long way to helping with our air quality problems.
Solar power is incredibly clean and doesn’t require harmful emissions (or any emissions for that matter). Some cars can be powered completely by solar panels, but they have very limited areas of use and are mostly for special races. The practical application for solar panels is that they can be used to boost a battery powered car’s efficiency levels, which we could see happening in the very near future.
A very interesting and practical use of excess oil byproducts. A biodiesel car uses a slightly modified conventional diesel engine and can run off of a wide variety of vegetable oils, even cooking oils. Since the US is a prime place for growing “biodiesel friendly” crops, a fleet of biodiesel cars can go a long way to help us achieve independence from foreign fuel sources.
The most promising source of future fuel. Since ammonia is readily manufactured in the US and used in farming to make fertilizer, we already have a large supply and manufacturing infrastructure. To burn ammonia, aka GreenNH3, it only takes a few modifications to current engine technology and it’s only emissions are nitrogen and water.
There are plenty of benefits to driving green. Not only do alternative fuels lessen the impact of cars on global warming, but there are monetary benefits as well. Cars that run on alternative fuels are eligible for many car insurance discounts. If owners fall on tough times, hybrids and electric vehicles even fetch more money in car title loans.
While you won’t see these replace gasoline at the pump today or tomorrow, these five alternative fuels represent the possibility of reinventing the way we look at energy consumption and sustainability. The way forward doesn’t have to be lit by the light of fossil fuels anymore.