Biofuels in Transport: Alternatives to Fossil Fuels and Their Place in the Automotive Industry

  • Author: OPONEO.CO.UK

It’s difficult to say that good things have come out of advancing climate change. As the temperature of the planet and sea levels around the world mutually begin to rise though, some steps have been taken towards ensuring a greener future for the Earth. 

Alternative fuels, for example, have begun to crop up to stand in for fossil fuels. The diversity and usability of these fuels vary, as research in their individual sectors has received unequal attention. However, there are plenty available nowadays for those who are able to use them.

power station

Fossil Fuels, Transportation, and Environmental Impact

Changing the way we travel is especially important when considering the ways we can better serve our planet. The Guardian reports that airplanes alone make up two per cent of greenhouse gas emissions internationally and ships on the ocean aren’t far behind. 

In the UK specifically, cars and public transportation make up 26 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions. While we’re not suggesting a diesel ban – at least not until 2040 - it is important to consider these numbers and the ways in which we, collectively, can see them lowered over the next few years.

Planes, trains, automobiles and biofuels

Moving away from our reliance on fossil fuels is not going to be easy. However, creative and engineering minds have found ways to use biofuels in transportation. These people have created fuel out of materials as strange as algae and as common as soy. 

While some of these opportunities have proved more popular than others, they all offer ways for us to continue using our cars on a daily basis while also ensuring that we all lessen our carbon footprints.

power plant

These alternative fuels are guaranteed to see implementation in planes, trains, and automobiles too, regardless of the political upheaval surrounding climate change and their viability. A study released back in 2013 spoke of the declining investment in diesel-powered vehicles; more recent reports only bears out the trend. 

While ships and planes may be more inclined to rely on petrol and diesel, the US Navy and a number of international airlines are looking to rely more heavily on biofuels in the next few years. This deliberate move away from fuels that contribute to world-wide pollution bodes well not only for environmentalists but for the creative minds pursuing renewable resources.

Algae-based fuel

Algae-based fuel saw its debut in 2010 thanks to the United States Navy, who was, at the time, intent on reducing its carbon footprint by integrating the algae-fuel with its petrol. Since then, Exxon has emerged as the primary researcher behind algae-based fuels and has expressed that it intends to have planes, ships, and trucks all make use of the combined fuels in the future.

chemical flasks filled with green substance

Driving on ethanol

Ethanol, too, has been cited as a potential substitute for petrol on the roads, in the water, and in the air. While less energy dense than petrol, ethanol is made from cash crops likes sugar cane, corn and soybeans. With these crops already being grown abundantly in the Western world, ethanol has the potential to either stand alone as a replacement to petrol or work in combination with petrol in order to wean cars towards sustainability.

Electric vehicles

The development and implementation of electric engines in cars nowadays have proven to be one of the most popular solutions to transportation-oriented pollution. There are already 155,000 electric cars on the road in the UK as of early 2019, with the number seeming to rise.

solar panels

Solar-powered cars

Solar power has also been posed as a solution to the problem of fossil fuels. When these cars make use of their solar panels, they still supplement the car’s need to rely on fossil fuels in order to run. Cars like this are debuting in 2019, where other modes of transportation, like the trains at Byron Bay, have already started making use of the sun’s ability to minimise their carbon footprint.

Hydrogen as fuel

In the same vein as solar-powered cars, hydrogen powered cars have begun to make the news. Hydrogen as a fuel supplement works most effectively when water is cut through by an electric current, thereby releasing the hydrogen connected to oxygen in the water’s chemical bond, or when cars make use of steam-methane reforming. 

This marriage of mechanics and chemistry looks very promising - with a hydrogen fuel-cell car you can get better mileage (as compared to a Tesla), better mpg and re-fuelling time. Relying on a chemical reaction to move the entire car may turn out the automotive technology of the future.

wind power plant

There are more fuels available besides those listed here, but these stand as viable methods through which we can reduce our carbon footprints and our contributions to climate change. With temperatures rising around the world, it is more important than ever that these fuel alternatives and others like them circulate through public consciousness, in as such becoming natural substitutes for fossil fuels that will, despite what some believe, run out.

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