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Need for alternative fuels

The motor vehicle population has increased tremendously over the last decade in India as is
currently around 57 million. Environmental degradation is an outcome of the growth in motor
vehicle population. One of the strategies adopted to curb deteriorating environmental quality is the
use of alternative fuels like ethanol, compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied petroleum gas
(LPG). In general, the need for alternative fuels can be summarized as below

To replace fast depleting conventional petroleum derived fuels.

To reduce air pollution caused by automobiles.
For economic development of the country.
To avoid fuel dependency i.e., to reduce fuel imports.

Availability and properties of alternative fuels

Ethanol: There are 121 ethanol (E85) refueling sites in the U.S., up from 37 in 1995. Ethanol
refueling sites can be found predominantly in the Midwest, close to the major supplies of ethanol.

Methanol: There are only two methanol (M85) refueling sites in the U.S., significantly down from
88 in 1995. Both of these sites can be found in California. The total number of methanol (M85)
refueling sites has been dropping in the past few years, due to the lack of M85capable flexiblefuel

Natural Gas: There are currently 1,237 CNG refueling sites and 44 LNG refueling sites in the U.S., up
from 1,065 CNG refueling sites in 1995. Natural gas refueling stations are usually located in urban
areas near the major concentrations of natural gas vehicles, and are frequently constructed on a
company's site to serve its fleet vehicle

Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG): There are currently 3,270 propane sites in the U.S. LPG is sold
throughout the U.S. as a home heating fuel, and many stations offering refueling of propane tanks
also offer vehicle refueling.

Biodiesel: There are currently four biodiesel refueling sites in the U.S. The National Biodiesel
Board counts seven major suppliers of biodiesel as members, located mostly in the Midwest.
Biodiesel can be pumped through conventional diesel refueling equipment, so widespread
availability of biodiesel would not pose a major obstacle with respect to infrastructure.

General Use of



A laboratory solvent for high performance liquid chromatography

An antifreeze solution in pipelines
A waste water treatment chemical
A wind shield washer


As intoxicating ingredient in alcoholic beverages

Used as an antiseptic and as an ingredient in hand sanitisers.


Used as a refrigerant
Used as a chemical feed stock
As a domestic fuel
Centralized heating solutions


Used as a fuel for locomotives

Used for space heating, electricity generation and as an automotive fuel


Primarily used for transporting natural gas to markets where it is gasified and
distributed as pipeline natural gas.


Used for powering hot air balloons

Used as a fuel for hydrogen lifted airships
Used as a part in nickelhydrogen battery
Used as a rocket fuel


Used as a fertilizer in the agriculture.

Used to manufacture synthetic fibers, plastics and explosives.


Can be used for electricity production

If concentrated and compressed, it can be used in vehicle transportation

Vegetable oils

Many vegetable oils are consumed directly or indirectly as ingredients in food

Used to make soap, skin products, candles, perfumes and other personal care and
cosmetic products.

Merits and demerits of various alternative fuels



Methanol is liquid under normal conditions, allowing it to be stored, transported

and disposed easily much like gasoline.
It has higher Octane number than gasoline and hence can be used in SI engines.
Methanol can be produced from a wide variety of sources including fossil fuels like
coal, but also from wood and municipal waste.
The volumetric energy density of methanol is higher than liquid hydrogen.
It has a lower temperature catalytic reforming than gasoline, hence making it a
better fuel for fuel cells.
It can be blended with gasoline. e.g.: M85
It can compare/compete with and complement ethanol in a diversified energy


It is toxic in nature.
Its energy density is one half of that of gasoline and 24% less than ethanol on
volume basis.
It is corrosive in nature to some metals including aluminium, zinc and manganese.
It attracts water, leading to phase separation and difficulty in starting the engine.
Cold starting is poor due to low volatility in cold weather.
Methanol leaks do not dissipate, causing fire hazard.



10% ethanol blends reduce carbondioxide and HC emissions better than any other
reformulated gasoline blend by as much as 25%.
Ethanol contains 35% oxygen by weight; making it burn cleaner than gasoline.
Ethanol contains 80% fewer gum forming compounds than gasoline.
Ethanol is highly biodegradable, making it safe for the environment.
Ethanol reduces CO2 equivalent greenhouse gas emissions.

It can be generated from waste or biomass

It is a promoter for rural economy


Ethanol produces higher aldehydes emission when combusted inside engine

Higher ethanol blends requires vehicle modifications.
Sustained availability of ethanol is difficult.
It has lower energy density than gasoline.
It leads to increased engine wear and tear due to low lubricity.



Renewable in nature.
Cleanest fuel due to low emissions of NOx.
Can be produced from variety of feed stocks.
Requires low ignition energy.
Superior combustion characteristics.
Adulteration free.
High purity levels available.


High flammability lends an explosive quality to the fuelair mixture.

Leak detection of hydrogen is difficult as it is odorless.
Preignition occurs when the cylinder charge ignites before the spark.
Backfires when the flame travels back to the fuel induction.
Expensive as production quantity is limited.
Lack of distribution infrastructure.

Compressed Natural Gas (CNG)


Environmentalfriendly fuel with no particulate matter and smoke emissions.

Renewable fuel with lower green house CO2 emissions.
Cleaner than gasoline with lower CO and HC emissions.
Obtainable from diverse sources like biomass.
CNG engines have quite operation
Odorless fuel.
Dedicated CNG vehicles produce little or no evaporative emissions during fuelling
and use.

In terms of weight, CNG costs 5060% less than gasoline and diesel.
CNG is a clean burning fuel that reduces vehicle maintenance.
CNG unlike liquid fuels cannot be siphoned from a vehicle.
Adulteration of CNG is practically difficult.
CNG boosts national economy by way of reducing dependence on crude oil.


Inadequate and expensive infrastructure.

Higher vehicle capital cost.
Short driving range.
Much heavier fuel tank, reducing fuel economy and increasing braking distance.
Poor lubricity causing increased wear.

Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG)


LNG produces less green house gas and toxic emissions than low sulphur diesel and
Lower particulate emissions than diesel.
The supply of LNG is dependable due to its vast reserves around the world.
LNG engines can achieve a reduction of up to 50% in noise levels compared to diesel
LNG prices are always stable.
LNG has around 3.5 times the fuel density of CNG. Vehicle operators can therefore
achieve much greater haulage range using LNG.
LNG can be safely stored in stainless steel vessels.


Higher cost.
Inadequate distribution infrastructure.
Hazards of frost bite in case of leakage.
Need for monitoring of tanks to prevent fuel vent off.
Absence of vehicle standards.

Liquefied Petroleum Gas:


The storage in liquid phase at tank guarantees high mileage.

Lower storage pressures.
The high H to C ratio decreases the CO2 production for unit energy delivered.
The chemical structure of the fuel makes the combustion easier, limiting the
formation of primary pollutants.

Good distribution infrastructure and availability in urban areas.

Economical compared to gasoline due to lower production costs.
Environmentally friendly fuel.
Superior engine performance with liquid phase fuel injection.


Tendency to form a spill on leakage causing fire hazard.

Energy density is poor as compared to gasoline.
Increased wear and tear of engine due to poor lubricity.
High exhaust gas temperatures.



Cleaner burning fuel with less hydrocarbons, NOx and particulate matter emissions.
Lower cost fuel.
Ability to be generated from waste feed stocks.
Traps and prevents green house gas methane from being released into atmosphere.
Displaces fossil fuel usage.
Boosts rural economy by creating jobs.
Solves waste problem for diary, hog and poultry farmers.


Biogas if untreated is corrosive in nature due to the presence of hydrogen sulphide.

It is flammable and explosive if accumulated in enclosed spaces.
It is toxic if accumulated due to the presence of carbon monoxide.

Straight Vegetable Oil (SVO)


Cheaper fuel
Boosts agroeconomy
Can be derived from algae and nonedible sources.
Reduces PM emissions from CI engines
Environment friendly
Can be blended with other oils or converted into biodiesel
Higher energy density as compared with gaseous fuels
Storage is relatively easier


Viscosity is a problem for free fuel flow.

Foaming tendency is high

Deposit formation is higher
Fouling of engine surface is high.
Lubricity is poor causing more wear and tear
NOx emissions are on the higher side
Fuel quality is not uniform
Fuel availability is poor due to inadequate infrastructure.



Environmentfriendly than other fuels like petrol, diesel, etc.,

Most diesel engines work more efficiently and even last longer with the use of
Cleaner and economic fuel.
Advantage over gaseous fuel is that it can be easily pumped and handled.
Using biodiesel is the best way of reducing the emission of green house gases like
methane and carbon di oxide
Can be looked upon as a way to improve energy security
It is a renewable source of energy
Boosts rural economy
Can bring waste lands under cultivation


Reduced oxidation stability

Fuel aging commences rapidly, which causes deposit formation, builds up resins and
corrosion of fuel injection equipment,
Failures amounting to complete destruction of the injection system have been
reported by usage if nonstandard or contaminated biodiesel.

Introduction to alternative energy sources

As we all know, combustion of fuels in mobile sources for transportation has led to widespread
release of pollutants such as CO, HC, NOx, suspended particulate matter (SPM) and many other
harmful compounds in the environment, and the resulting air quality deterioration and health
effects especially in urbanized areas. Hence, an integrated approach for reducing emissions from
mobile sources is most desirable in urban transportation. In this regard, alternative power trains
play a major role in emission mitigation. In majority of alternative power trains, a battery or a fuel
cell powers the vehicle. The fuel is the set of chemicals, which is oxidized and reduced to provide
the electricity. In such cases, the electricity itself may be treated as an alternative fuel, since it
replaces fuel energy used in transportation. Most alternative propulsion systems are cheap, non
polluting and renewable.

Battery Electric Vehicle

An electric vehicle (EV) is operated by an electric motor, which draws electricity from a battery
bank. The batteries can be charged when the electrochemically active materials in these batteries
have been used up. Most of the EVs at present use rechargeable lead acid batteries. An EV is a very
good alternative for a clean, efficient and environmentfriendly urban transportation system
because its energy comes from the source fuels used to generate electricity.

Hybrid Electric Vehicles

Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) use the combination of engine of a conventional vehicle with an
electric moor powered by traction batteries and/or fuel cell. This combination helps in achieving
both energy and environmental goals. The deployment of a large number of these vehicles would
provide environmental benefits, reduction of oil consumption, and reduction in emissions. In
hybrid EVs propulsion, energy is available from more than one source of energy. The three
configurations of HEVs are series hybrid system, parallel hybrid system and split hybrid system.

Fuel Cell Vehicles

Fuel cells produce electricity employing reaction between hydrogen and oxygen gases
electrochemically. Fuel cells are efficient, environmentally benign, compact, modular and reliable
for power generation. Highconversion efficiency, extremely low or no emissions, noiseless
operation, high current density and compactness are some of the advantages that make fuel cells an
ideal power option for automobile application.

Solar Vehicle

A solar car is a lightweight, low power vehicle designed and built with a single purpose in mind
racing (or racing, a combination of race and ray from the sun). Similar to Indy or Formula One
race cars, solar cars do not represent a practical means of transportation. They have limited seating
(usually one, sometimes two people), they have a very little cargo capacity and they can only be
driven during the day. They do, however, offer an excellent opportunity to develop future
technologies that can be applied to practical applications.