T Nation

Which Alternative Fuels?


I'm curious on what you guys feel is the best bet when it comes to alternative fuels.

A. Ethanol
B. Natural Gas
C. Propane
D. Hydrogen
E. Biodiesel
F. Methanol
G. P-Series
H. I couldn't care less about alternative fuels


Long term: Solar power with better battery technology


Even longer term: Fusion.




coconut oil.


A combination of biodiesel and ethanol. You can product both from different parts of the same plant. Plus you need ethanol in process of making biodiesel out of straight vegtable oil. The big discussion is the feed stock for the process. Right now, the most promising is algae.


I don't support using our farm land for producing energy but the algae ponds on top of big buildings are intriguing.


I like biodiesel which comes from used restaurant oil.



little known fact, the first automobiles were designed wtih elctrical motors. The engenners realized the potential, internal combustion was also investigated, big oil like internal combustion.. those fuckers! Electrical motors run at100% capacity 100% of the time. Thats why those little GM hybrid cars that are being developed in my town (cool huh?) pass you like nothing!

there is also a car company, i want to say toyota, that has developed a concept hybrid sports car that has over 300 HP but gets milage like a wee 4 banger!


Don't forget that solar is already fusion!

Fact: In just one hour and fifteen minutes, the earth receives enough solar radiation to equal all of one year's global energy consumption.

Fact: In one year, the earth receives more energy in solar radiation than all combustion energy ever used by mankind plus all the energy in remaining deposits of fossil fuels. And then some.

So it should be no big shakes to tap enough solar energy to provide for our needs both today and tomorrow. The supply is there, we simply need the technology, morality, perseverance and wisdom to best tap into it, this God-given furnace of fusion in the sky.


electical. The technology will just get better and better with money behind it.
I think it is pathetic that we still use internal combustion engines and with hybrids and the like just starting to gain popularity. So I think it is a transition to hybrid then to all electrical.

check these out. They arent neccesarily for super long rad trips but for daily drives they are perfect. save the suburbans for towing.



The best bet really depends on how much you care about climate change and energy independence.

Electric motors would be the best solution. They are more efficient than combustion. If we can advance battery technology far enough (capacity and charge time) to be commercially viable, that would be the best bet. However, the source of the electricity would determine its advantage over other methods. If we can get widespread solar power (which is projected to be feasible within 5 years), that would be key.

Biodiesel is great on a small scale. If you have a diesel, get waste oil from a restaurant and make your own. Not terribly difficult to do. Diesels are much more efficient than gas engines and have become much cleaner than they used to be.

Hydrogen would be reasonable if we get fusion going, maybe even with solar power, but as it stands, the overall process of making hydrogen and getting it in your car is just too inefficient.

Ethanol is okay for blending with gasoline for now, I guess. This big push for it recently is pretty stupid though. There's enough corn in our lives as is:


A few things to think about:

All the various biofuels are a form of solar.

Electricity is not a fuel. We need a way to generate electricity.

When comparing efficiencies of different types of motors you have to account for generating and transporting the electricity, gasoline, biofuel etc.


Actually they have developed cellulose based ethanol production which is very promising, becuase there is a lot of cellulose that goes to waste each year, and it would keep the food sources out of the production.

As for which one is best, I think that it will be a combination of many renewable fuels.
For electric power a combination of wind, hydro, nuclear, and solar.

For transportation I doubt that electricity will ever completely take over (In my lifetime). I think that the most promising energy sources are the biofuels. Hydrogen won't work because of the energy required for production.

Electricity won't work because more power is needed than a battery can provide (I'm not talking small cars, the needs stem from the transportation of items, not people. Big rigs won't run on batteries)



Right now, as it stands, the economics of producing alternatives such as hydrogen fuel cells or ethanol isn't efficient enough to make them a very viable option.

I will say that reusing industrial bio oils is a good alternative because all the work has already been done to make it a good fuel. All ones needs is a minor modification (removing a glycerine molecule and cleaning the oil) to make it work.

The downside is that in colder climates it needs to be thinned because it is very difficult to start when it is too viscous.


Hemp Biodiesel


Something to consider.....the human body has an energy efficiency of around 20-25% compared to the internal combustion engine which is only around 10%.

Perhaps, we can solve the obesity epidemic and our reliance upon oil in one swift move? I am a dreamer...


If you really want to get technical every energy source that isn't locked beneath the earth's crust is solar derived. This includes water potential, wind, and all biological matter used in the making of fuels.

Crude oil is also a form of solar energy since it is the product of decayed biological material drawn out over millions of years. It seem logical that we should just go straight to the source to be the most efficient.


Very true.

I have been hearing about a breakthrough in solar technology for years but it seems unlikely that we can manufacture enough cells to generate electricity on a massive scale.


Well, yes. And burning oil is also using solar power that's been accumulated and converted over billions of years.

I meant fusion reactors, where we can control the reaction in the same way we do with our current fission reactors. It would certainly solve our current energy problems in a big way.

Solar cell technology is making interesting advances these past few months. From captors who can reach 40% (and maybe 60%) efficiency (vs. our current 10%) and that can be (maybe) cheaply mass produced, there's hope on that front. It's battery technology that's really lagging behind and dragging everything down.