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Alternative Fuels

What Is an Alternative Fuel?

There are more than a dozen alternative and advanced fuels in production or use today. Although government-regulated and voluntary private fleets are the primary users of these fuels, consumers are showing a growing interest in them. Use of these fuels is critical to reducing dependence on foreign oil and improving air quality. These fuels are defined as alternative fuels by the Energy Policy Act (EPAct) of 1992 and are currently, or have been, commercially available for vehicles:

Electricity Electricity can be used to power all-electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles directly from the power grid. Vehicles that run on electricity produce no tailpipe emissions. The only emissions that can be attributed to electricity are those generated in the production process at the power plant. Electricity is easily accessible for short-range driving. A Plug-In Electric Vehicle Handbook for Consumers is available through the Alternative Fuels and Advanced Vehicles Data Center website. The handbook includes information to help consumers make informed decisions regarding purchasing an electric vehicle.

  • This guide is great for consumers looking to purchase an electric or hybrid car. It also dispels many of the most commonly held myths about PEVs and has a handy tool that finds the right electric vehicle for you!
  • Need further information about the ins and outs of plug in electric vehicles? Check out the Department's of Energy's "Plug in Electric Vehicle Handbook." The online booklet is filled with a plethora of information about plug in electric vehicle basics, benefits, purchasing the right PEV, driving and maintaing the vehicles, and much more! This handbook is a great resource for fleet owners.
  • The Bay Area is getting ready for electric charging stations. Find out how they are doing it and send us your thoughts on how we can get the Central Coast ready for electric chargers!

Ethanol Ethanol is a fuel made from various plant materials, which collectively are called "biomass." Ethanol contains the same chemical compound (C2H5OH) found in alcoholic beverages. Nearly half of U.S. gasoline contains ethanol in a low-level blend to oxygenate the fuel and reduce air pollution. Ethanol is also increasingly available in E85, an alternative fuel that can be used in flexible fuel vehicles

Hydrogen The simplest and most abundant element in the universe, hydrogen can be produced from fossil fuels and biomass and even by electrolyzing water. Producing hydrogen with renewable energy and using it in fuel cell vehicles holds the promise of virtually pollution-free transportation and independence from imported petroleum.

Natural Gas Natural gas is a domestically produced alternative fuel and is readily available to end users through the utility infrastructure. It can produce significantly fewer harmful emissions than gasoline or diesel when used in natural gas vehicles. This page has a great widget that will calculate your fuel cost savings as well as your reduced emissions.

Propane Propane, also known as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), is used by many fleets. It has a high energy density, giving propane vehicles good driving range, and propane fueling infrastructure is widespread.

Biodiesel Biodiesel is a renewable alternative fuel produced from a wide range of vegetable oils and animal fats. Pure biodiesel or biodiesel blended with petroleum diesel can be used to fuel diesel vehicles, providing energy security and emissions and safety benefits. This page can help you calculate the savings you get by fueling your car or truck with biodiesel.

Click here to visit the DOE Alternative & Advanced Fuels page and find out more about each fuel.

Petroleum Reduction

  • Drive sensibly and observe the speed limit
  • Avoid excessive idling
  • Keep engine and vehicle properly tuned
  • Keep tires properly inflated
  • Use alternative transportation
  • Convert your vehicle
  • Use air conditioning properly
  • Replace your vehicle’s clogged air filter