From Biofuels to Electric: A Guide to Alternative Fuel Vehicles

Francie Grubba


Whether you’re a fleet manager, a public policymaker or just an enthusiastic driver with a passion for the future of transportation, it’s important to understand the different types of alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs). This guide is designed to give you the information you need to get started with these new technologies.

What is an alternative fuel vehicle?

An alternative fuel vehicle is any motor vehicle that runs on a fuel other than petroleum-based gasoline or diesel. There are many different types of alternative fuels, but the most common ones are ethanol and electricity.

Alternative fuel vehicles can be powered by:

  • Gasoline blended with ethanol (E85)
  • Compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquefied natural gas (LNG)
  • Hydrogen

Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles

Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are one of the newest alternative fuel technologies on the market. They use a hydrogen-powered electric motor to generate electricity that powers their wheels, just like any other electric vehicle (EV). But unlike EVs, which store their energy in batteries and must be plugged into an outlet when they run out of charge, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles can be refueled with liquid H2O just like gasoline or diesel engines–and they produce no tailpipe emissions as a result.

How do they work? Hydrogen is stored under pressure in tanks mounted on top of or within an SUV’s chassis; these tanks can hold up to 5 kilograms (11 pounds) of compressed H2O at 2200 psi (165 bar). When you start up your car and press the accelerator pedal, this releases some of those gases into another compartment called an “electrolyzer” where they combine with oxygen from air flowing through its intake system. This generates electricity that powers an electric motor located near where you would normally find pistons inside an internal combustion engine (ICE). That electricity powers not only propulsion but also all other accessories such as lights and climate control systems–in short: everything except starting up itself!

Natural gas

Natural gas is a fossil fuel, but it’s cleaner than other fossil fuels. It’s mostly methane, which is considered to be the cleanest of all hydrocarbon fuels (though it can still release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere). Natural gas is mostly used in home heating and cooking because it’s cheaper than oil or propane, though some cars run on natural gas too.

Natural gas vehicles have been around since the 1930s and are usually converted from gasoline vehicles by replacing engines with ones that run on compressed natural gas (CNG). CNG vehicles aren’t as efficient as their counterparts running on gasoline or diesel–they get about 30{a5ecc776959f091c949c169bc862f9277bcf9d85da7cccd96cab34960af80885} less power out of each gallon of fuel–but they’re easier to fill up because you just plug them into a standard socket instead of having to find an underground tank like with propane tanks. And while there are still issues with storage tanks leaking over time due to corrosion or damage caused by earthquakes/tsunamis/hurricanes/etc., these risks are much lower than those associated with other types of energy sources such as coal plants which release large amounts of mercury into our air every year!

Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG)

Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) is a mixture of propane and butane, which are both hydrocarbons. It’s commonly used as fuel for cooking, heating, and powering vehicles.

LPG has many advantages over gasoline: it’s more efficient than gasoline; it pollutes less when burned; it costs less to produce than gasoline; and its use doesn’t result in any greenhouse gases being emitted into the atmosphere.

Propane (CNG)

Propane is a natural gas that can be used in cars. It’s often used in fleets of vehicles, such as taxis or buses. Propane is more efficient than gasoline, which means you’ll spend less money on fuel.

However, there are some drawbacks to propane vehicles: they require special fueling stations and may be difficult to find if you live in an area with few refueling options. Additionally, the tanks that store the propane must be checked regularly because they can leak if not maintained correctly (like any other piece of machinery).

Electric vehicles

Electric vehicles are the most common type of alternative fuel vehicle. They use a battery to power the car, and can be charged from a wall outlet or charging station. Electric vehicles have a limited range, but can be charged in less than 3 hours at many public charging stations.

It’s a good idea to become familiar with the types of alternative fuel vehicles now so you’re prepared for their increasing adoption.

As you can see, the benefits of driving an alternative fuel vehicle are plentiful. By becoming familiar with the different types of these cars, you’ll be ready to take advantage of them when they become more widespread.


We hope this guide has helped you understand the different types of alternative fuel vehicles and their pros and cons. If you’re looking to buy a new car, keep in mind that there are many options available today–and more coming soon!

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