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Alternative Fuel Descriptions
The move towards alternative fuels is intended to reduce dependence on foreign oil, diversify transportation fuel supply, and improve air quality.  There are many alternative fuels to choose from.

This alcohol fuel is usually mixed with gasoline at 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent unleaded gasoline to form what is called E-85. Typically derived from distilling corn, ethanol is also a byproduct of starch manufacturing. Currently, E-85 is not commercially available in Oregon. Flexible fuel vehicles (able to use alcohol or gasoline fuels) are now available at no additional cost over a dedicated gasoline vehicle.

This alcohol fuel is expensive to manufacture from either digested biomass resources or coal. Methanol has some caustic and toxic characteristics which have not been commercially addressed which may make it a less desirable transportation fuel.  This fuel is most often blended with unleaded gasoline to form M-85. This fuel is currently not available in Oregon.

Converting a vehicle to use CNG costs about $3,000 and proves to be cost-effective over the vehicle’s life considering fuel cost savings alone. Conversion with certified parts may be allowed by the manufacturer for warranty maintenance. Currently, the only cost-effective investment in CNG use is for vehicles with convenient access to fast-fill fueling stations. Currently there are no public fueling stations in Oregon for CNG vehicles.

This fuel is cryogenic and stored as a cold liquid that needs insulated storage and distribution systems. LNG vehicles are typically original equipment manufacturer (OEM) modified for this fuel use. LNG is typically used in heavy-duty vehicles which are not covered under the state mandate in EPACT.

This fuel, commonly known as propane, is the most widely used alternative fuel in Oregon at this time. There are more than 250 refueling sites throughout the state. Although this is a petroleum based fuel it has some of the clean burning characteristics of other alternative fuels. Conversion of vehicles cost approximately $3,000. It is believed that LPG conversion violates vehicle warranty. The additional conversion cost and similar price per gallon do not make propane the best choice for cost effectiveness since there is 25 percent less energy content in a gallon of propane compared to unleaded gasoline.

The commercial production of these vehicles started in 1992, with new technology changes each year. Improvements continue and have not yet stabilized causing high initial incremental costs. Typical electric vehicles for fleet commuting applications cost between $7,000 and $15,000 more than an equivalent gas fueled vehicle. Recharging infrastructure is not a significant barrier, and vehicle miles per charge are improving. A new class of lower cost, ultra-light-weight electric vehicles dedicated to local commute, campus or single site applications have shown outstanding cost-effectiveness.  The higher first cost of electric vehicles designed to be used as a replacement for a conventional vehicle applications have shown to be less cost effective.

Barley, soy and other crops, along with waste grease from the food service or processing industry, can be distilled into an oil suitable to fuel diesel engine vehicles. These fuels can be used in vehicles with little or no modification to their diesel engines. In addition to being a domestic renewable resource, biodiesel is clean and safe. It provides substantial reductions in carbon dioxide, monoxide and toxic gas emissions. With minor fuel injector adjustment, nitrogen oxide emissions are reduced. Biodiesel is biodegradable and nontoxic, making it an excellent fuel for marine applications as well. Biodiesel has a high flash point and does not produce explosive air/fuel vapors. Biodiesel also provides for good diesel engine performance and is convenient to store and dispense.
Biodiesel comes in B-20 (20 percent biodiesel, 80 percent petroleum diesel) or B-100 (100 percent biodiesel) forms. Either form of biodiesel meets or exceeds lubricity (fuel based engine lubrication) needs of a diesel engine which can make it a great additive for the new low or ultra-low sulfur petroleum diesel. B-20 and B-100 have cold weather performance similar to straight petroleum diesel and B-20 stays uniformly mixed during storage. B-20 may be stored in tanks previously used for petroleum diesel. To provide fuel integrity, suppliers recommend that B-100 fuel be stored in existing tanks than have been steam cleaned or new tanks dedicated to that fuel.
Suppliers are rapidly developing an Oregon customer base of public and commercial fleets. Fleets with their own fuel storage and dispensing capabilities can take advantage of this clean fuel now. Some mobile or temporary fuel dispensing systems are also available. Commercial dispensing will likely be developing soon. Oregon’s Business Energy Tax Credit can help offset 35% the cost of installing or modifying storage and dispensing for this fuel. More information on the history or policy affecting bio-diesel can be found at www.biodiesel.org. The availability, user experience and the state of any research on biodiesel can be found at this site www.biofuels.doe.gov/.

Hydrogen (H2) is the lightest and simplest gas. This makes it a very clean energy source. Storage of this gaseous fuel for transportation use poses challenges that are currently being researched. The two methods of manufacturing hydrogen fuel currently result in costs of $3 to $4 dollars a gallon and use electricity or natural gas, which typically results in air emissions. A safe hydrogen fuel distribution system needs to be developed to make the quantities necessary for transportation readily available. Several vehicle manufacturers have developed research vehicles which they expect to be available through fleet leases in 2005 and to retail consumers by 2007. The ability to create the fuel from a variety of resources and its clean-burning properties make it a desirable alternative fuel.
Pure hydrogen and hydrogen mixed with natural gas (hythane) have been used effectively to power automobiles with internal combustion engines. Hydrogen's real potential rests in its future role as fuel for fuel cell vehicles. Hydrogen and oxygen fed into a proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell "stack" produce enough electricity to power an electric automobile, without producing any harmful emissions from the vehicle. Vehicle manufacturers expect these fuel cell vehicles to be proven reliable and on the market as early as 2007.
Hydrogen is a gas at normal temperatures and pressures, which presents greater transportation and storage hurdles than exist for the liquid fuels. Storage systems being developed include compressed hydrogen, liquid hydrogen, and chemical bonding between hydrogen and a storage material (for example, metal hydrides). When stored in a compressed or even liquid state, hydrogen has less energy content than the same quantity of conventional fuels like gasoline or diesel. Currently no large quantity manufacturing, transportation or distribution system exists for hydrogen.
Hydrogen can be made through gas synthesis using steam reformers or electrolysis. Electrolysis uses electrical energy to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. The predominant method for producing hydrogen gas is steam reforming of natural gas. Methanol, coal or biomass can also be used to make hydrogen. These other hydrocarbons can be gasified and steam reformed to create hydrogen. The U.S. Department of Energy and other market developers see hydrogen infrastructure based on natural gas steam reformation at the service station, opposed to vehicles powered by hydrogen reformed onboard the vehicle. This hydrogen infrastructure, using natural gas at existing fueling stations, seems practical since natural gas is typically accessible at most fuel stations.
Solar photovoltaic systems that power an electrolyzer to produce hydrogen from water hold significant environmental promise. These systems will be most cost-effective when located in areas of the state where solar resources are prevalent. However hydrogen is produced, there will always have to be supplemental energy inputs for reformulation, transportation or compressing the fuel for on-board storage. Where those supplemental energy supplies come from will determine the emissions and environmental cost of this new hydrogen economy. Manufacturing hydrogen fuel from renewable feedstocks, with the supplemental energy from renewable resources, will prove to be the most sustainable approach.
More information on the benefits and transportation opportunities regarding hydrogen can be found at the American Hydrogen Association web page.

Hybrids are not typically referred to as a separate alternative fuel but the technology is found in many new alternative fuel vehicles.  This vehicle engine/motor drive system uses electricity or other alternative fuels while still using conventional fuels in an internal combustion engine. The conventional fuel engine is used for drive power and to charge a small battery pack  to power the vehicles primary or supplemental electric motor.  These vehicles are typically light weight, aerodynamic vehicles that recover wasted energy from braking.  They typically qualify as Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicles.  Several Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) have either released or announced limited releases of production vehicles starting in 1999 and 2000.

Links and other information
Alternative Fuels Home Page
"Biodiesel: A Cleaner, Greener Fuel for the 21st Century" reprinted from Environmental Building News with permission from BuildingGreen, Inc. (www.buildinggreen.com)
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