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Which one is a realistic alternative to gasoline?

Ethanol? Biofuel? Electric? Hybrid?
Date: Tue-Jan-26-2016-
Biofuel has 2 main problems. 1. It requires energy to grow and transport what ever you are using to create the fuel, and uses a great deal of energy converting the corn/switchgrass/soybeans into a fuel suitable for use in cars. The energy consumed is greater than what is produced. 2.By using food as fuel, or replacing crops previously grown for food to be produced for fuel, we create food shortages which in turn increases the price. We are already seeing this as big companies jump on the bio-fuel wagon. Car manufacturers & oil companies tend to be big supporters of the bio-fuel industry for obvious reasons - their pockets remain plump.
[d] By: prettify
Date: Tue-Jan-26-2016

The answer starts with defining what "realistic alternative to gasoline" means.  If your definition is like mine, it means "which fuels have the most realistic chances of significantly reducing the use of foreign oil".

Put simply, we don't have nearly enough capacity to produce biofuels at a level that would make a serious dent in the global use of oil.  Biodiesel requires the growth of crops, then processing of these crops into fuel.  We simply don't have enough farmers to produce the crops and plants to process into fuel.  The lead time to improve capacity is far too long.

A similar issue plagues E85 ethanol.  While there are more corn growers, a global switch to E85 would require every piece of American farmland to grow corn for ethanol within a decade to support the fleet.  Ethanol is not a great fuel, because it is less efficient and produces less hp.  People point out that it is cheaper at the pumps, but this is entirely because of large current supply and low immediate demand.

Many "green" types love traditional diesel, because of the lower greenhouse gasses. Unfortunately, diesel helps the long-term health of the ozone layer for an immediate hurt of people's lungs.  Diesel is nasty to human lungs due to the particulates produced during combustion.  Diesel particulates are a major source of asthma problems around the world.  Luckily, cleaner diesel fuel ("low sulfur") and better technology from automakers like Mercedes, VW and Audi have helped significantly, but these engines require frequent maintenance to keep the urea solution (the particulate filter) clean. 

Another downside of diesel is that it is still oil.  As mentioned previously, biodiesel cannot be made in enough supply to support the low numbers of American commuting consumers, much less the global commercial market.  Additionally, diesel prices can vary wildly -- oftentimes costing far more than gasoline.

The idea of electric cars is older than combustion engine cars.  Electric cars in 1900 had the same problem as modern electric cars: range and recharge time.  Battery technology is still as far from allowing the range consumers need now as it was then. (200 miles in a Tesla is actually less usable today with urban sprawl than an early 1900's Detroit Electric with a 30 mile range for a person living no more than a mile or two outside of the city.)

Hybrids are a good compromise, but again, this a technology that is nearly as old as cars themselves.  The first gasoline-electric hybrid was created by Ferdinand Porsche for the Lohner company in 1903.  By around 1904 Porsche added regenerative braking to the vehicle.  Other fuel-electric hybrids existed before 1910.

Toyota made hybrids "cool" with the Prius, but it is just a small step.  From a green perspective, there's more fuel and pollution associated with the production and transportation of the batteries for installation in Prius vehicles than a domestically made (either domestic or foreign-owned) vehicle uses and makes in a typical usable life.

Hydrogen fuel cells have been a pipe dream for fifty years.  Read technical and automotive magazines from the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and you'll find articles that all say the same thing "we're still a decade away from making hydrogen cars a reality".

What really has a shot at being a good alternative are plug-in hybrids.  Bob Lutz, former Vice President of GM, told me last year that it is GM's intention to make the plug-in electric/gas hybrid technology in the upcoming Chevy Volt the standard powertrain in all of the company's front-wheel-drive vehicles.

The upsides of plug-in hybrids are big: forty miles of electric power gets most drivers to and from work/school without touching the gas engine, but unlike electric-only cars, the gas engine gives another 300-plus miles.  This significantly increases the average mpg.

If we take it a step further, figure battery technology in the next five years gets the car to 75 miles, and the use of diesel engines increases the mpg, we could see a functional average of 200mpg returned by a standard mid-size sedan in typical urban usage.

Of course, there are downsides! The electric grid is not capable of handling a  million or two plug-in cars added each year.  Consequently, it will take investments in new powerplants and other infrastructure. (Anyone want a coal or nuclear energy plant in their town?)  Furthermore, don't expect the cost of driving on that electrical energy to be cheaper than $3-per-gallon gas.

In the end, there are no easy answers.  Part our struggle is that automakers had no reason to innovate over the last century, so we're not much further down the road to a solution than automotive engineers were a century ago when electric and steam cars outsold gasoline-powered vehicles!

[d] By: banned
Date: Tue-Jan-26-2016
If there were no political barriers, the best fuel is water, which theoretically would be able to generate energy.

It is composed of oxygen (which could be released into the atmosphere) and hydrogen (it is used as fuel).

Thus, in addition to generating power, help to renew the oxygen from the atmosphere.
[d] By: curative
Date: Tue-Jan-26-2016

When considering a direction in clean energy, five basic requirements must be satisfied in order to ensure a low-risk and a rapid return on investment. These criteria include:

• Environmentally Clean or Cleaner
• Commercially Available,
• Domestic Resource Base,
• Positive and Immediate Impact on Domestic Economy
• Affordability

While there is a vast array of technologies that claim to support these goals, few technologies can actually meet these requirements, today. Claims for commercially viable alternative energy solutions are in the distant future. For the most part, they are constrained by perception, economic, regulatory, technical, reliability and durability issues. Outside of government investments and incentives, in today’s risk-adverse world, the likelihood to secure the necessary funds to develop and commercialize a technically sound clean energy solution is a difficult and remote opportunity.

In terms of what renewable energy technologies make the most sense, it must be understood that in the U.S., electric power generation, transportation and industry are the big three contributors of greenhouse-gas emissions with each generating 2.4, 2.0 and 1.4 billion metric tons in 2007, respectively. Of the total energy consumed in the U.S., 40% comes from petroleum products, 23% from coal and 22% from natural gas. Nuclear power (8%), biomass (3%), hydro-electric (3%) and geothermal, solar/PV and wind (1%) plays a minor but conceivable growing role. The Energy Information Administration sites use of natural gas in the U.S. economy includes industrial (35%), electric generation (29%), residential (20%), commercial (13%) and transportation (3%). Additionally, a comprehensive study released on July 4, 2008 by the American Clean Skies Foundation (ACSF) and Navigant Consulting, Inc. (NYSE:NCI) indicates the United States has 2,247 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of natural gas reserves, which is enough to last more than 100 years.

With about 250 million registered vehicles in the U.S., the transportation sector offers a tremendous opportunity to reap the benefits of renewable sources of energy. Diversification of America’s transportation fuel portfolio includes a short list consisting of all-electric, hybrid PHEV, bio-diesel (B100) and blends, ethanol, propane, and hydrogen. While these choices have some environmental and economic benefits for light duty-vehicles (up to 8,500 GVW), natural gas for vehicles is the logical energy choice due to its proven technology, commercial availability and compatibility with internal combustion engines. In combination with the existing base of medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, this results in tremendous economic benefits for fleet operators that convert their vehicles to use natural gas. Additionally, electric and hybrid alternatives are not available or a good choice due to performance limitations for medium-duty (up to 14,000 GVW), medium-heavy-duty (up to 26,000 GVW) and heavy-duty vehicles (over 26,000 GVW). Finally, bio-diesel and blends may not meet the air quality standards mandated by the EPA.

Date: Thu-Jan-5-2017
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