Alternative Fuels Library
There are a variety of alternative fuels, and all of them serve a different niche within the transportation industry. Alternative fuels offer an opportunity to minimize our dependence on foreign oil, support domestic economies, lessen our environmental footprint, and reduce operating costs through cheaper fuel and maintenance. Find out more about each fuel type and scroll down for the fueling map.
Biodiesel is a domestically produced, renewable fuel that can be manufactured from new and used vegetable oils, animal fats, or recycled restaurant greases. Biodiesel’s physical properties are similar to those of petroleum diesel, but it is a cleaner-burning renewable alternative. Research has shown that biodiesel also reduces emissions of toxic air pollutants in older on-road vehicles and in many off-road applications. Biodiesel is safe and biodegradable, and its use significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions and serious toxic air pollutants. Learn more on the Alternative Fuels Data Center Biodiesel Page.
Electric vehicles (EVs) use electricity as a primary or secondary power source instead of conventional motor fuels like gasoline or diesel. Using electricity stored in a battery to power an electric motor has natural advantages over the internal combustion engine, including quieter operation, zero tailpipe emissions, instant acceleration, and significantly cheaper operating and maintenance costs. Go to DriveElectricColorado.org to learn about the variety of vehicle applications, charging levels and more, and check out the Alternative Fuels Data Center Hybrid and Plug-In Electric Vehicles Page.
Ethanol is a renewable fuel made from corn and other plant materials and is considered an alternative fuel under the Energy Policy Act of 1992 (EPAct). It is used to fuel E85-capable flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs), which are available in a variety of models from U.S. and foreign automakers. Ethanol use is widespread, and more than 98% of gasoline in the U.S. contains some ethanol. The most common blend of ethanol is E10 (10% ethanol, 90% gasoline). Ethanol is also available as E85 (or flex fuel)—a high-level ethanol blend containing 51% to 83% ethanol, depending on geography and season—for use in flexible fuel vehicles. E15, another blend, is increasing its market presence. It is approved for use in model year 2001 and newer light-duty conventional gas vehicles. Learn more at the Alternative Fuels Data Center Ethanol Page.
Hydrogen (H2) is an alternative fuel that can be produced from diverse domestic resources and has the potential to revolutionize transportation and, possibly, our entire energy system. The simplest and most abundant element in the universe, hydrogen can be produced from fossil fuels and biomass and even by electrolyzing water. Simply put, hydrogen is an emissions-free alternative fuel produced from diverse energy sources. Producing hydrogen with renewable energy and using it in fuel cell vehicles holds the promise of virtually pollution-free transportation and independence from imported petroleum. The interest in hydrogen as an alternative transportation fuel stems from its clean-burning qualities, its potential for domestic production, and the fuel cell vehicle’s potential for high efficiency (two to three times more efficient than gasoline vehicles). Learn more at the Alternative Fuels Data Center Hydrogen Basics Page.
Natural Gas (CNG)
Natural gas, a domestically produced gaseous fuel, is readily available through the utility infrastructure. Whether produced via conventional or renewable methods, this clean-burning alternative fuel must be compressed or liquefied for use in vehicles. The advantages of natural gas as an alternative fuel include its domestic availability, established distribution network, relatively low cost, and emissions benefits. Learn more at the Alternative Fuels Data Center Natural Gas Page.
Propane, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) or propane autogas, is the third widest used transportation fuel in the world, following gasoline and diesel. Propane is an odorless, non-toxic hydrocarbon gas at normal pressures and temperatures. When pressurized, it is a liquid with an energy density 270 times greater than its gaseous form. A propane vehicle operates similarly to a gasoline or diesel vehicle by burning the gas in an internal combustion engine. Since the fuel is cleaner-burning, a propane vehicle has fewer emissions, and propane helps reduce our dependence on foreign oil and has been used for decades to power light-, medium-, and heavy-duty propane vehicles.
A very common application for propane is in school buses, where propane can be bought in bulk for much cheaper than diesel to save on operating costs, and the buses are also much quieter. Learn more on the Alternative Fuels Data Center Propane Basics Page.
Renewable Natural Gas
Renewable natural gas (RNG) is a pipeline-quality gas that is fully interchangeable with conventional natural gas and thus can be used in natural gas vehicles. RNG is essentially biogas (the gaseous product of the decomposition of organic matter) that has been processed to purity standards. Like conventional natural gas, RNG can be used as a transportation fuel in the form of compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquefied natural gas (LNG). RNG qualifies as an advanced biofuel under the Renewable Fuel Standard. Learn more about RNG on the Alternative Fuels Data Center site.
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