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Cars That Operate on Fuel Alternatives

odometer fuel light

Everyone is troubled with the rising costs of petrol recently. Personally, I find myself thinking about my fuel consumption more than my food consumption! Fuel prices are skyrocketing and people are starting to look for alternatives. In the year 2017-2018 there was an increase in over 10% in fuel prices. There are several factors that have contributed to this, including the rising price of international crude oil, an increase in cost of refined petrol, and let’s not forget the market rate.

Retailers too are looking to increase their profit margins. Current retail fuel prices are 50 cents per litre more than 16 years ago and with Brisbane being one of the largest cities, it’s no surprise that we are paying more than other places. So what can we do to beat fuel prices and save ourselves from forming deep holes in our pockets?

We live in an era of technological advancements where everything is going electric, even cars! Electric cars are a more environmentally friendly alternative to petrol powered cars as they produce fewer emissions. There are two types of electric cars that have recently emerged – all-electric and hybrid cars. Let’s have a look into both of these!

All-electric

All-electric cars encompass an electric motor instead of a combustion engine. It doesn’t have a fuel tank or an exhaust, and you know what that means – reduced air pollution! Not having an exhaust also allows cars to run silently. So how does it work? The electric motor receives power from a controller, which receives its power by rechargeable batteries. Batteries simply need to be charged by plugging the car into a power source. Charging times for batteries ranges from 20 minutes up to 20 hours, depending on how depleted the battery is of energy. Most electric car drivers choose to charge their batteries at home, however more charging stations are being introduced in public areas and workplaces to raise market acceptance.

Here is a little read on how charging electric car batteries work.

This method, while environmentally friendly, does come with its disadvantages though. Electric run cars don’t run for as long as gas or fuel powered cars. Their range is limited by extreme temperatures as the car uses energy to regulate temperatures for heating and cooling. So if a person was driving an all-electric car during winter, they would most likely have to spend more time charging their car batteries. This would make it an unsuitable option for long road trips as energy electrical energy would also be required to maintain the temperature of the car to avoid parts from being jammed. Aside from the effects temperature has on electric cars, driving with additional weight, at high speeds or at road inclinations also requires additional energy, reducing its overall capacity. So while all-electric cars do come with a solution to help the environment, driving such cars does come with its own set of challenges. However, if you are a regular driver, consider the advantages of reducing your own carbon footprint, not to mention you won’t have to stress about the always rising fuel price. Overall, the disadvantages electric cars pose to drivers is comparatively a small price to pay in order to save the environment and our money!

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Hybrid

Hybrids sound so fancy! Or is it just me? Whatever the case, hybrid cars allow drivers to achieve the best of both worlds. Literally. Hybrid cars are gas and electric powered cars. And while it does contain a combustion engine, it is smaller and designed to burn less fuel. Attached as well is an electric motor used to boost acceleration and store energy, sort of like water heating tanks. Electric energy is stored and dispensed according to the cars needs. So, how do hybrid cars work? The electric engine provides a “boost” to the fuel engine by delivering extra power while accelerating, capturing energy while breaking through regenerative braking and starting the engine.

Although Hybrids do leave some carbon footprint, it is significantly lower than fuel powered cars. Hybrid cars are a good compromise between conserving the environment as well as satisfying the efficiency drivers require in a car. The main disadvantage that hybrid cars still pose is the price. Hybrid cars are one of the most expensive cars on the market at the moment, which is why they haven’t been replaced by fuel powered cars yet! But the future has been looking a little brighter for the environment as people and businesses try to go green, so we never know, we could all be driving hybrid cars within a decade!

Ethanol

This may seem a little unconventional or even unheard of. In truth though, ethanol is a biodiesel fuel that has great potential to possibly replace gasoline completely. Ethanol, or ethyl alcohol, is also found in some of your favourite cocktails, in much smaller traces obviously. So, if you can put it in your body and get hyped, it makes sense that cars do the same!

So how is it better than common types of petrol?

On one hand petrol depletes the earth and takes hundreds of millions of years to replenish, on the other, ethanol is derived from a plant in Australia, sorghum grain. It is a usable fuel source that is much more environmentally sustainable than fuel. An ethanol blend of fuel consists of 85% ethanol and only 15% gasoline. Not only that, ethanol is a renewable fuel source, produced domestically and it reduces carbon dioxide emissions from cars by 50%. Look at us, figuring out ways to reduce our carbon footprints!

Flexible fuel vehicles can be run on ethanol. These cars have a greater mileage and deliver more torque than gas powered cars. However, ethanol has a low freezing temperature, which means, under cooler temperatures it may lead to cold starts as the ethanol starts to crystallize. While this was a problem engineers had to tackle with for a bit, an effective solution has emerged to combat this problem – engine heaters. As of date, most modern cars can burn a 10% ethanol-based blended fuel However, technology is advancing at an exponential rate and car manufacturers are figuring out more effective ways to incorporate ethanol-based blended fuel with a higher percentage of ethanol in it.

Read more about the perks of driving ethanol fueled cars here.

Hydrogen fuel-cell conversion

Hydrogen fuel-cell conversion is kind of a cross between a combustion engine and battery powered electric cars. Now, before you assume it’s like a hybrid car, hold your horses!

Like hybrid electric cars, hydrogen powered fuel-cell cars require fuel to be deposited in a fuel tank. However, this fuel is not petrol, it is pressurised hydrogen gas. This pressurised hydrogen reacts with oxygen from the air, creating electricity and dispensing water and heat as by-products. And unlike batteries, these fuel cells do not require charging. As long as it holds pressurised hydrogen in its tank, they will continue to run!

Everyone knows what hydrogen is. It is one of the most common naturally occurring chemical elements in the universe. However, much like many other elements, it is difficult to obtain it in its pure form as it is usually combined with oxygen (making H2O) or other matters. Hydrogen can be a very reactive element and therefore an extraction process is conducted in order to safely split hydrogen molecules from the other molecules they are combined with. This extraction process requires electricity, drawing on its biggest disadvantage to the environment. In order to obtain a sustainable amount of hydrogen to be used in cars, hydrogen fuel conversion requires quite a bit of electricity, negating its post-advantages as it still contributes to overall emissions. So while buyers of a car are reducing carbon footprints and helping sustain the environment, the manufacturers have to burn through a lot of electrical energy in order to produce such a car, which is one of the reasons hydrogen fuel-cell powered cars still hasn’t gained a lot of traction as an environmentally friendly car.

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Solar Powered Cars

Let’s step into a territory that has been much celebrated as an alternative electrical power source in the last decade. Solar power. Solar powered cars run on electricity generated from solar panels. These solar panels are attached to vehicles, producing electrical energy. The battling issues that we still face with this today, is the expense. While solar energy is free, ready accessible and environmentally friendly, they are expensive! Not only are solar cells expensive, but the batteries needed to store the solar energy also comes at a high price. And let’s not forget, while it is the most environmentally friendly form of power source, the energy it derives from the sun, which is not very efficient especially with fluctuations in weather conditions. There have been ways to counteract this issue, one of which includes wind-turbines. Solar powered cars designed with wind-turbines provide energy from the wind as well, which can be stored along with solar energy. Curious about the science behind it all? Have a read here!

Additional Fuel Tips

Not everyone can go all fancy pants and lash out with cars that provide alternative sources. So here are some tips on how you can save with fuel.

  1. Check ACCC for fuel cycle and advice. This is a handy government site that gives insight to the fuel prices and fluctuations. It is updated regularly and you can check fuel prices of different places as well!
  2. Have a browse at sites such as Motor Mouth to find the cheapest fuel in your area. Motor Mouth is a downloadable mobile app, so you can check the price of fuel at different fuel stations as you go!
  3. Here is a little secret tip that you may not know of. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the cheapest days for filling up your fuel. That’s right! So try and power up your cars in the middle of the week as opposed to the weekends!

Want to know more about the cheapest fuel price days? Have a read at this! https://www.savingsguide.com.au/what-is-the-cheapest-day-for-petrol/

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