With gas prices on the rise and the search for alternative fuels well under way, you may be wondering what options you have to get around in this world. Here is a run down of some alternative fuel options and energy saving techniques to help you save the planet, as well as some dollars.
So youâ€™ve heard about cars and trucks running on vegetable oil. Did you know that any diesel engine can be converted to veggie power? It costs about $3500 to convert a truck, and around $800 to convert a regular car. The process includes adding a heating tank for fuel, inserting fuel lines up to the engine, and incorporating a filter, valve set, and toggle switches into the car so the driver can choose between running on vegetable oil or on conventional diesel fuel. You can buy a kit online, or look for a local mechanic to do it for you.
While vegetable oil is a great alternative, there simply isnâ€™t enough of it to dramatically affect gas consumption. The physical infrastructure isnâ€™t in place to provide most people with access to this resource, and the scarcity of this alternative fuel does not provide much incentive for providers to invest in widespread veggie power distribution.
Government red-tape regulations also make it difficult for distributors to acquire fuel licenses to sell vegetable oil. Â Instead, many people have made deals with local restaurants to buy their leftover vegetable oil. Even though over 100 million gallons of waste restaurant oil are generated annually in the United States, this would only replace about 0.07 percent of the 140 billion gallons of gas Americans use each year.
Are there any other alternatives? You bet! Alan Greenspan said in 2006 that cellulosic ethanol is the only alternative energy source that could be produced in enough volume to make a dent in gas usage.
Some advantages to ethanol: ethanol is clean burning, renewable, and costs about a dollar a gallon to produce. With no modifications, existing cars can run on 10 percent ethanol. With only about $100 of adjustments, these cars could be 85 percent ethanol powered. Ethanol is also domestically produced, a huge advantage over imported oil.
There are quite a few disadvantages to using food-based ethanol (such as those derived from corn or soy), including scarcity of resources. Thatâ€™s where cellulosic ethanol comes in. Cellulosic ethanol can be made from a variety of things that might otherwise be considered waste, like sewage sludge, switchgrass, plant stalks, trees, and even coal. Essentially, anything that contains carbon could be made into cellulosic ethanol.
Not all alternative fuels are more efficient than gasoline, however. Be aware of hidden environmental as well as monetary strains. See an outline of the various costs associated with different power sources here.
Perhaps youâ€™re wondering if the government plans to do anything about adopting alternative fuel strategies. On Wednesday, March 8, 2012, President Barack Obama proposed bigger tax credits for advanced-technology vehicles, whether they are powered by electricity, natural gas or other alternative fuels, and announced a $1-billion initiative to help a dozen or so communities across the U.S. create infrastructure to support them. Sounds like progress!
So, has all this talk of alternative energy convinced you to buy a more fuel-efficient car? Here is a list comparing ten of the most demanded vehicles on the market today:
Base MSRP: $22,800
MPG: 51 city / 48 highway
MPG: 40 city / 43 highway
Ford Fusion Hybrid
Base MSRP: $28,825
MPG: 41 city / 36 highway
Base MSRP: $20,000
MPG: 38 city / 36 highway
Lexus RX 450H
Base MSRP: $43,935
MPG: 32 city / 28 highway FWD
Toyota Camry Hybrid
MPG: 33 city / 34 highway
Ford Escape Hybrid
Price: $30,045 FWD
MPG: 34 city / 31 highway FWD
Toyota Highlander Hybrid
MPG: 28 city / 28 highway
Honda Civic Hybrid
MPG: 40 city / 43 highway
Lexus HS 250h
Base MSRP: $34,650
MPG: 35 city / 34 highway
Â An alternative to buying a new vehicle: how to make the car you already own more fuel-efficient. Here are some helpful hints for best driving practices so you can get the most miles for your dollar.
- Use cruise control
- Coast with neutral when possible
- Donâ€™t top off when filling your tank, the gas tank needs room for the gas to expand
- Tighten your gas cap to prevent evaporation
- Keep your tank above one third full
- Use AC sparingly
- Clean out your car and travel lightly, extra weight causes inefficiency
- Avoid stop and go traffic whenever possible
- Set your tires to the proper inflation
- Take your car in for regular tune-ups
- Replace your engine’s air filter when necessary
- Avoid excessive idling
- Use the manufacturer’s recommended grade of motor oil
- Bike, use public transportation, and walk as often as you can manage
Featured Image by MSVG on Flickr Courtesy of Creative Commons Licensing