What are the future fuel options for car travel?
A lot is being done to try and reduce the greenhouse gas emissions on earth and cars form a big part of that with the carbon monoxide that existing internal combustion engines running on petrol and diesel give out. For this reason, we’ve now entered a new phase of car travel revolving around zero emissions. The front runner in the race at the moment is without doubt electric but there are some other potential options out there that are currently in development and we’ll explore then a little further.
Electric Cars (EV’s)
Electric cars have been in development for some time now and they have progressed massively over the last 20 years both in terms of range and speed. The benefit of electric cars is that they are quiet, have excellent acceleration and the vast majority of people have electricity readily available at home to recharge them (no need to go to a petrol station). On the downside the distance you can cover is much shorter that with a petrol/diesel car and you can’t fill it up in a minute and be on your way again, it needs charging up which takes much longer. Tesla have created superchargers which will add on 200 miles within 15 minutes of charging, but it takes an hour to charge completely. The other problem is that superchargers aren’t available everywhere so if you are parking in London you’ll probably have a good chance of finding one but in more out of the way locations you’ll have little chance. If you were to use a normal charger on your Tesla it would take 10 hours to charge fully. The other major downside to electric cars are the batteries, the raw materials being used in the batteries are mined from areas with conflicts and dictatorships and then disposing of old batteries isn’t a simple process.
Hydrogen is already used in some forms of transport, mainly trains at present but development is in place by some Japanese car manufacturers to bring it in to general production. The benefits of hydrogen are that it a very abundant, clean element and can be sourced from virtually anywhere, including water. In terms of actually generating enough hydrogen there would be no problems, the issue lies with delivering and storing the hydrogen. If cars were to run off this the gas would need to be compressed, stored both in transit and at refuelling stations and then in cars without there being a risk of explosion. This is the main thing that stands in the way of hydrogen becoming a clean fuel in cars. It is being looked at as a replacement for natural gas to be used in boilers and tests are underway to see how it performs in comparison.
Biofuels are typically made from things such as rapeseed and therefore can be grown and supplied before being turned into a fuel that can be used. The benefit of biofuels are that they can be used as a direct replacement in internal combustion engines, so any petrol or diesel car could use biofuel instead. At the moment it is tough to produce it on mass but it is used in F1 cars and in some motoring exhibitions. The concept has been proven it now just needs to be scaled up so that people parking in city centre car parks are no longer pumping our poisonous emissions.