Though petrol is bad for the environment, and is getting more expensive every day, it is still the most used fuel for vehicles. There are alternatives to petrol but most of these are still not available for mass consumption. Scientists are trying to find viable, clean and green alternative fuel for transport but there are many challenges which have to be overcome. There are biofuels, electricity, LPG and even CO2 which are going to be used in the future, but right now these fuels are not exactly feasible. Let’s take a look at the reasons why:
Biofuels are derived from animal or plant matter (newly grown). Theoretically, biofuels such as Ethanol can reduce CO2 emissions. Ethanol is produces by fermenting the sugar of plants like corn, wheat and sugarcane. Biofuels have many good points such as reducing the reliance on petrol and diesel, lowering greenhouse emissions, causing less air pollution and so on.
Challenges facing Ethanol production
So why has the use of Ethanol not become widespread? This is due to some challenges which have to be overcome, such as lower energy than petrol, i.e. compared to petrol, a person will travel a much shorter distance with Ethanol.
In order to produce Ethanol, sugarcane and other crops have to be cultivated in large areas, which compete with land used for food production. This, then increases food prices, and poor people are affected by the high food price.
Clearing the natural vegetation damages the biodiversity and monoculture, and it is also harmful for the local ecology.
Ethanol cannot be used on older vehicles and if the plants, which are required to produce Ethanol, are grown using fertilizers and then transported across long distances, the greenhouse benefits would be negative or very minute.
Produced from animal and vegetable oils, biodiesel is non-toxic and biodegradable, and can be used easily in diesel engines without modifying them or can be mixed with regular diesel. It is better than Ethanol because it can be produced from cooking or agricultural residues.
Challenges in the use of biodiesel on a mass scale
Just as Ethanol, biodiesel has less energy content than that of diesel. It competes with food crops, thus raising food prices and damaging the local ecology. Biodiesel also has a major drawback – it produces more amounts of nitrogen oxides than diesel. Vehicle modification is required for colder climates and the production of biodiesel is limited as of now.
Why electric cars are are still not feasible
You may be wondering why electric cars, which seem to be the best alternative for petrol, are still so expensive. It’s because the technology has not yet advanced to the required level, and production costs as well as running costs are high. If you have the money, you can buy electric cars, but for now, as it was in the beginning of the ICE engine, only the rich can afford electric cars. With time, electric cars will be the norm, along with other alternative fuel cars, as there just won’t be enough petrol to go around, and secondly the electric car technology will have reached maturity.
This is most common alternative to petrol right now, but it has its drawbacks too. It is produced from non-renewable resources, emits high levels of CO2, has less energy than petrol, and requires a very expensive car conversion. It’s not a very good alternative to petrol, but right now, it’s the best we have.
Harnessing carbon dioxide as an alternative fuel
Scientists have found a way to produce methanol using hydrogen and ethanol. In comparison to petrol, methanol can prove to be a good alternative fuel. The scientists are aiming to harness CO2 and integrate it in the production cycle so as to minimize the damage done to the atmosphere by Carbon Dioxide.
All these alternative fuels might be better in the future, though governments and private companies have to work out environment and people friendly solutions, so that food production does not suffer in the production of alternative fuel.