Future fuel tech: What will power tomorrow’s cars?

The world is becoming more and more conscious about fast increasing carbon emissions. Owing to this nearly all car manufacturers are investing heavily in developing vehicles driven by alternate fuels. That is non-fossil fuels. The cars today are not only powered by fossil fuels but also on alternative energy sources, like electricity. According to reports, there are around 2 million electric cars on world’s roads. Here are some of the sustainable, reliable and durable fuel options the world is eyeing. Read on.

Biofuel

The process of transesterification of degradable sources like animal fats, recycled oil, and algae, is used for generating biodiesel. It is cleaner than diesel which is derived from fossil fuel and releases less aromatic hydrocarbons, a lesser amount of soot with lower levels of carbon monoxide. While these fuels are advantageous when it comes to cost effectiveness, as they do not need new delivery infrastructure, are clean, and already in production and use, the disadvantages are that they are in direct competition with food production and require large biomass to meet fuel demands. Also, biodiesel releases more nitrous oxide than conventional diesel, leading to more smog.

Ethanol

An ethanol fuel can be used to power cars by breaking down the sugars present in a variety of plant crops. It is renewable, domestically generated alcohol fuel extracted from corn, grasses, and sugarcane. Using this alternative can reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Researchers across the world claim that they are yet to find the perfect biofuel crop as most plants provide different strengths of ethanol. There are other added disadvantages like massive deforestation and taking away of sugars necessary for human consumption. Thus the production of fuel, in this case, is simply not sustainable.

Vegetable Oil

Like the previously listed alternatives, mother nature comes to the rescue again. Recycled vegetable oil, used for cooking is an alternative fuel option. Though this seems lucrative, straight vegetable oil (SVO) comes with a lot of disadvantages. Firstly, it has a high viscosity which makes it difficult for the present day car engines to atomize it in the combustion chamber. Secondly, the ignition needed to start a car is difficult to achieve. Thirdly, there is a very high chance of SVO clogging a car engine. Hence using this fuel might mean developing engines suitable for its use or treating SVO to be compatible with present day engines.

Electricity

The world is going gaga over autonomous cars. Automation giant, Tesla, software giant Google and mobility giant Uber, are all up for the power based, self-driving vehicle game. Essentially, these cars don’t have an internal combustion engine, which means that these cars don’t emit any gases which are harmful to our environment. Although there’s a lot more work done regarding improving the manner in which the electricity is generated to recharge these batteries, the idea of owning a car with rechargeable batteries seems fascinating. Having solar powered batteries looks like a viable option. Some improvements in the battery size, storage and charging time also need to be done. Nevertheless, electric cars are ready to take over the world’s roads!

Hydrogen

Hydrogen looks like the ideal fuel for future cars. NASA’s Apollo missions used hydrogen as the fuel for rocket propulsion. Passing an electric current through water, leading to the atomization of hydrogen and oxygen, is the usual process of hydrogen generation. Though it may look the ultimate fuel for cars, there’s a lot to do regarding making it economically viable and sustainable. It requires a lot of resources for production, store, and transportation.

These sources have a lot of relevance in today’s context since the entire biosphere, and the human race is severely affected by the ever increasing carbon footprint of the environment. One has to be aware of the energy which drives their car. It may take a while before an optimum solution is derived.

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