Tuesday October 4th, 2011 10:32 Alternatives to petrol

Biofuel
Just when you thought petrol prices couldn’t get any higher – they carry on doing so. While those people who considered using an alternative fuel used to be in the minority, many mainstream drivers are now searching for a better alternative to petrol or diesel.

There are a number of viable alternatives already available – here are three of the best.

Plant power

Two of the most popular alternative fuels are sourced partly from plant crops. Bioethanol is a mixture of ethanol and petrol – the blend ratio can vary, but the most commonly used blend is 80% petrol to 20% ethanol. Ethanol is produced from crops. Bioethanol is popular in countries where corn and sugarcane can be grown in vast quantities – hence the number one user is the US, followed by Brazil.

Similarly biodiesel is a blend of normal diesel and biodiesel, which is produced from crops such as rape or animal fats. As with biofuel, any vehicle including 4×4 cars and trucks can be modified to use biodiesel, so the cost to the car owner is low. The environmental downside is that both biodiesel and biofuel production rely heavily on agriculture – so put a squeeze on land use.

Halfway house
Hybrids are cars that have a petrol engine and an electric motor. The motor’s batteries are charged by regenerative braking, and plug-in hybrids can be charged while the vehicle is parked up. As the electric motor assists the engine during acceleration and can power the car alone in slow moving traffic, the fuel economy is marked. Most hybrid cars in the UK have petrol engines, so though petrol prices will still be relevant, they won’t affect you half as much.

Go electric
Electric cars don’t need petrol at all, as they are fully powered by electric motors. Instead, you’ll be more focused on electricity costs. The big disadvantage to electric cars is that they are limited by their range before they need recharging, and often don’t compare in terms of speed to other fuels.

Image copyright Robert Couse Baker

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