The UK has quickly become a leader in the sourcing of alternative fuels. Decreasing landfill space and an increase in the number of vehicles on the roads has led to rigorous exploration into how to break our addiction to fossil fuels. Those who choose to think outside the box have come up with some very interesting and promising alternatives to the fossil fuels we use.
Chocolate Production Waste
Interestingly, the production of chocolate produces several waste products that may be viable candidates for the ingredients used in biodiesel. Warwick University was able to create a largely biodegradable car than ran on fuels which contained 30% biodiesel, made from the leftover lipids of chocolate production. However, this did occur several years ago, and no new developments have been reported since.
One of the most promising renewable fuels is hydrogen. It is also one of the most efficient and environmentally-friendly fuel alternatives. The fact that hydrogen-powered cars produce only water as a by-product can have a significant impact on our fuel use and environmental impact. As well, this water can be used to produce electricity and power fuel cells. Unfortunately, no infrastructure is yet in place for its creation, sale or usage, which may remain the case for the foreseeable future.
Although it may not be a new fuel alternative on its own (as other fuel is expended to generate the electricity), electricity is definitely a viable choice for powering cars. Of course, bugs remain with regard to availability of charging stations along roadways and the mileage that a single battery charge can provide. Some batteries may be able to go as far as 120 miles or more, whilst others may give out at half that distance. Electric cars are not yet as inexpensive as consumers would like them to be, even though the government provides a £5,000 incentive when one is purchased.
LPG, or liquid petroleum gas, is a by-product of the oil refining process from natural gas fields. Conversion must take place in order for a vehicle engine to be able to run on LPG, but once complete, it can offer many benefits. These include more favourable engine operation and of course, saved money. This alternative does come with a caveat, however; it’s important to ensure that your conversion has been done properly by an installer approved by UKLPG.
Biofuels, made from plant materials include bioethanol and biodiesel from vegetable sources. Either of these can be mixed seamlessly with fossil fuels and used in common petrol-burning vehicles. Northern Ireland’s diesel, as well as some of its petrol, now contains a growing percentage volume of biofuels.
Biofuels could be a large part of the answer to climate change, as they can reduce its impact. This is because the plants from which biofuels are made remove carbon dioxide from the air. In growing these plants for biofuel production, CO2 can be reduced, thereby cancelling out the CO2 emitted when biofuel is burned.
Biomethane produced as the result of the processing of human waste is another fuel alternative that’s getting attention. 2015 saw the UK’s first human waste-powered bus hitting the roads. What it comes down to is availability. Human waste isn’t likely to ever be in short supply, making this a promising fuel alternative.
Yes, we said whisky. In Scotland, an innovative biofuel called bio butanol could soon be developed. Whisky distilleries produce waste from malt, as well as residue which is left behind after distillation has occurred. The malt and residue are mixed and fermented. This process produces acetone as well as ethanol and butanol. Butanol is the fuel of interest, able to be used with today’s engines. This fuel may also be what powers the planes of the future.
How well will these fuels do on the roads of the future? Only time will tell. At present, cost is the determining factor, with money required to build testing and processing facilities. However, once that is overcome, the final result could be a healthier environment and cleaner planet overall.