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Alternative Fuel Vehicles

July 30th, 2012

Alternative fuel vehicle research and creation has been on the rise. Fuel prices will only continue to go up as supply decreases and demand increases. More citizens are also interested in living greener lives, securing a stable, environmentally sound planet for future generations.

What makes a vehicle alternative fuel?

Any vehicle that uses another method than petroleum to power the engine. This also includes hybrid vehicles which are using methods other than gasoline, including electric or combustible materials.

What are some natural alternatives for typical fossil fuels?

The most common alternatives being researched and used are ethanol, methanol and butanol. These can be derived from renewable resources, although they provide very different by-products.

Ethanol is a renewable resource, derived from sugar starches in certain crops and produce, such as corn, grains, sugarcane and even lactose. Ethanol by-products are tolerated by most organisms.

Methanol is derived mostly from wood, but produces toxic by-products. Menthol was considered for fuel because of its hydrogenic properties.

Butanol has not been researched as much, but is derived through the fermentation of plants.

How do hybrid vehicles work?

Hybrid vehicles use two or more systems to propel the vehicle. Most on the market today use a half gasoline, half electric mix. A hybrid car has a gasoline engine; however, the engine on a hybrid is smaller. The car also has an electric motor, which acts as a motor as well as a generator. When the car needs to, it will use its electric batteries to accelerate the car. And because it acts as a generator, it can slow the car down, returning energy to the battery. The engine and electric motor turn the transmission, and then the transmission turns the wheels. The car’s cylinders also do not use fuel when the car is not moving.

How do hydrogen fuel-cell models work?

There are only a handful of these on the roads at this time, mostly because; there are very few hydrogen stations for vehicles.

The hydrogen engine can burn the substance through combustion, similarly to a traditional gas-powered vehicle.

In fuel-cell models, the hydrogen is turned into electricity through fuel cells which power an electric motor.

In both methods the only by-product is water, which is extremely environmentally friendly.

Many large car companies are successfully creating alternative fuel vehicles, the most popular being the Toyota Prius. Honda, GM, Nissan and many other companies are also offering hybrid vehicles and continue to research new ways to make our cars more environmentally friendly.

Contact The Talley Group for more information on automotive and mechanical engineering positions.

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