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What Will Power Tomorrow's Cars


Fly into any major city around the world and you will be greeted with a familiar sight: a sheen of brown smog that floats over the city. This smog comes mostly from cars.

With air pollution getting worse and oil production declining, car manufacturers are looking to alternative fuels.

Along with this smog comes carbon dioxide, the gas that's principally responsible for climate change. The steady increase in pollution has caused governments around the world to create legislation that will limit the volume of greenhouse gases.


Here are some fuels of the future then, that could be powering your car in decades to come.

1. Biofuel
Biofuels include bioethanol (which can be used instead of petrol) made from corn and sugarcane and biodiesel made from vegetable oils and animal fats. Both replace non-renewable crude oil-derived fuels. The best types are second generation biofuels which are produced from sustainable sources rather than those grown for food. Many consider them the best medium term solution to sustainable fuels.

2. Electricity
The electric car, powered by a motor with energy supplied by batteries, is getting lots of attention at the moment, thanks to cars such as the Nissan LEAF & Tesla. Battery efficiency is still limited though, meaning most offer a maximum range of around 100 miles (and take several hours to recharge). Batteries are very expensive too.



3. Hydrogen
Hydrogen can be used instead of fossil fuels in combustion engines. BMW already sells hydrogen cars, which give out no harmful tailpipe emissions, only water. Critics point out it transfers energy consumption away to the plant that makes the hydrogen, and there is currently no hydrogen refuel infrastructure in place.
Hydrogen can also be used to power a fuel cell and produce electricity. This is the solution many consider to be one of the best longer-term energy sources for cars: it produces zero emissions and overcomes the limitations of onboard batteries however fuel cell technology remains too expensive.



4. Heat
Two-thirds of the energy generated by petrol or diesel is wasted as heat. Thermoelectric technology, which converts heat into electricity, can help reduce this and is already under development by several car makers. One solution is to use thermoelectric panels to convert waste exhaust pipe heat into electricity, which can cut fuel consumption by 5%.

5. Air
Compressed air can replace petrol in a combustion engine to drive the pistons and produce power. Stored in 4500psi tanks, air as an energy source is much less energy-dense but does produce zero tailpipe emissions. Several concepts have been mooted over the years and some car makers such as Tata have even proposed mainstream air-powered cars.

Image & Content Source : cnet, scientificamerican

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