The government have announced that the production of all new petrol and diesel cars will be banned by 2040. So, it’s no surprise that more people than ever are making the decision to purchase an electric vehicle, something that’s especially evident over the past 4 years in the UK.
However, is electric the only option for the future? We’ve scoured the web to compile a list of the most unusual alternative fuels you never knew could power a car, from vegetable oil to watermelon juice!
Tequila (Agave Plant)
Agave plants used to make the popular shot, tequila, have the potential to replace harmful fuel emissions. This is down to the plant’s production of ethanol-based fuels and the fact that it can be grown even in the most testing conditions. However, whilst environmentally friendly, it isn’t a straightforward solution as, unfortunately, they are slow growing and have to be harvested by hand.
More than a delicious fruit enjoyed in the summer time, did you know watermelon juice could well be a valuable source for biofuel? According to the US Department of Agriculture, its high concentration of fermentable sugars makes it perfect for being turned into ethanol. Scientists estimate around 26 litres of ethanol could be made per metric ton of rejected watermelons! So, even the most misshapen of watermelons will have a job!
Compressed air cars were designed to run off of compressed air in high-pressure tubes. Working in harmony with electric power which powers the high pressure tubes, these compressed air cars do need to be charged, like electric vehicles.
Did you know your diesel car has the capability to run on vegetable oil? Albeit with a few conversions first! Many companies online offer conversion kits that allow your car to run cheaply off of straight vegetable oil. Sadly, it is currently illegal to run your car on vegetable oil in the UK (unless used in very small amounts) as you are paying no fuel tax. However, the government are looking to lift the ban on vegetable oil as fuel for the 2040 petrol and diesel ban. Remember, you will have to put up with smelling like a moving chip shop, so bear that in mind!
Once cellulosic ethanol is taken from sugarcane it makes another environmentally-friendly biofuel. In fact, in Brazil, people have been fermenting sugarcane juice to make alcohol-based fuel for many many years - sweet.
One experiment from the University of Warwick lead to a formula 3 racing car made entirely from environmentally sustainable materials, with 30% of its biofuel derived from chocolate! We wonder if the fumes smelled like melted chocolate.
In addition to other unwanted food scraps, coffee grounds are collected by companies in both Germany and Switzerland who collect and ferment the scraps together. This in turn creates a environmentally-friendly fuel. Approximately 10% of coffee contains usable oil that can be used in biofuel!
Fat is definitely one of the less attractive natural fuels. But fat can actually work as a renewable diesel. Using chicken, pork or beef fat, once hydrogenated by reacting the tallow with hydrogen under high pressure at a high temperature, synthetic hydrocarbon is created. This is virtually identical to diesel.
Wood chippings and grass pellets are also an alternative fuel option. The wood pellets burn in a low oxygen environment, producing synthesis gas. Sounds a bit dangerous to us, but it does work! Check out what this guy did:
Scientists at the University of Bristol set out to convert alcohol (being ethanol) into butanol (a much better petrol replacement). After much experimentation, they managed to eventually get their catalysts to convert beer to butanol! They succeeded in making beer petrol, but sadly, it will take a bit more time before it can be used in an industrial process!
The article was produced in collaboration with Keith Michaels, specialist car insurance provider.
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