James R. Cochran


The ongoing search for an sustainable, alternative fuel has been a top concern for governments for many years.

With the hybrid technology being a success in the US markets, a wider technological application has been sought in this area. With more and more fuels such as ethanol, bio-diesel and hydrogen, added to the alternative fuel list of hybrid cars, the option of choosing Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) is also not ruled out.

CNG has been widely used in buses and heavy load carriers in many parts of the world. Yet it has not dominated the car market. The difficulty of converting a conventional engine to a CNG-compatible one has been a serious concern for the manufactures as well as the car owners.

CNG contains a large percentage of methane (CH4) along with traces of other hydrocarbons. It is extracted from natural gas, which is produced by the decomposition of animal and plant wastes.

CNG as future fuel for vehicles promises a lot of benefits. Being a cleaner fuel than the petroleum fuels, CNG promises low emissions, and it can be compressed under high pressure, between 2000 and 3600psi making it easy to store in cylinders.

How does the world respond to CNG alternative? Worldwide examples show that the feasibility of using CNG in all types of vehicle is not under question. Argentina and Brazil are the two countries with maximum number of CNG vehicles, approximately 1,460,000 and 1,230,000 respectively. Here CNG is widely used in buses and trucks. Also a ‘Blue-network’ of CNG refilling stations is being developed on the major highways of Southern Cone of Latin America, including Chile and Bolivia. In the East, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India are the main players offering CNG fleet to their transport network. Pakistan is world’s third largest consumer of CNG. In the Middle East and Africa, Egypt tops with more than 63,000 CNG-run vehicles on its road.

The option of using CNG in cars has hit the market with many important players emerging with CNG-run vehicles. The Honda Civic GX is the first of its type. The Civic GX has been awarded as the cleanest internal combustion engine on the earth by the EPA. Another cool fact about the CNG cars is the possibility of refilling the gas from your own home. With the help of Phill, Honda offers this facility to its customers to get the fuel refilled from their home gas line.

The only hurdle in the use of CNG in vehicles is the cost of conversion of the engine. If proper support is offered by the public and private agencies in order to promote such an environmental-friendly fuel, consumers all around the world will be motivated to use this technolgoy, thus contributing to a cleaner environment and saving of fossil fuels. Already a scheme is on in the city of Santa Cruz allowing the CNG car owners to recover up to 60% of the conversion costs with the help of a ‘free-CNG’ vouchers offered to them. Apart from these, a lot of investment has to be made in the R& D along with creating awareness in the consumers about the necessity and viablility of converting their vehicles into a CNG one.

It’s no question that the scarcity of conventional fuels such as coal and petroleum has turned many car manufacturers to performance-guaranteed alternate fuels.  While costs do fluctuate up and down, the inherent limited supply will have to be dealt with eventually

And although the cost of production and the feasibility of these fuels are the priority concerns, the environmental impacts of these fuels are equally important.

Taking into account several factors such as availability, emission, cost of production, etc. the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, has approved a number of fuels as the alternate fuels for the future which can be safely used in vehicles. To promote the consumption of alternate fuels, the Federal government has initiated many tax incentives to consumers who purchase vehicles with alternate fuel technology.

Hybrid cars thus have been a choice of many consumers. It works on a technology that uses two sources of energy, by which the fuel consumption and emission can be reduced.

Let’s take a look at the most viable…


Ethanol is an alternative fuel produced by the fermentation of crops such as wheat, corn, sugar cane, and fruits, etc. This fuel offers cleaner combustion with less carbon dioxide emission and can be used mixed with petrol. E85, which stands for 85% ethanol and 15% petrol, is found to be the suitable fuel for hybrid cars.

Other combinations such as E70 are also available in the market. The drawback of this fuel is that it offers less mileage than that offered by petroleum fuels.


Bio-Diesel is produced from vegetable oil and animal fat. Bio-diesel can be used alone (B100) or can be blended with diesel. The available blends are B2, B5, and B20. B2 and B5 can be safely used in diesel engines, whereas the use of higher blends is not encouraged by the auto manufacturers. Though bio-diesel ensures less emission of CO and CO2, it emits more nitrogen oxides compared to other fuels. BioDiesel Made Easy!
All You Need To Know About Biodiesel, Where To Buy, How To Make It And Where To Get More Information

Compressed Natural Gas (CNG)

The main component of the Compressed Natural Gas is methane, one of the cleanest alternate fuels. There are vehicles that run only on natural gas, and some other vehicles run on two fuels- CNG and diesel/petrol, giving an option to the user to switch to diesel/petrol when the CNG is not available. The U.S. domestic market supplies 87% of the CNG required for the daily demands at present. The only hurdle involved in using CNG is the difficulty in converting a conventional engine to a CNG-compatible one.


Hydrogen is the undoubtedly cleanest and the most efficient alternative fuel there is. There are many sources of hydrogen such as coal, nuclear power and water. Hybrid cars use a technology called fuel cells in which hydrogen is used as the main fuel. The exhaust produced here is water, which of course, is not causing any harm to the environment.

Another technology that produces hydrogen from water works in the opposite way the fuel cell works. Both these technologies are in the embryonic stage; a lot of investment and research have to be made in order to make them popular in the market.

Though these are the main fuels that are considered as the best, many other fuels such as propane, butane are also considered as options for the future cars. A future technology that can utilize the benefits of these fuels would promise a better and greener earth for tomorrow.