Alternative Fuels and Vehicles

There are many fuels today being used as "alternatives" to gasoline. In most instances, the alternative fuel is less polluting than gasoline, resulting in fewer harmful emissions into the air and a lower negative impact on human health. Many organizations in cities in the United States have voluntarily adopted programs to use alternative fuels in their fleets. These same cities are making efforts to provide the fueling infrastructure necessary to operate alternatively fueled vehicles. Clean Cities, the U.S. Department of Energy program guiding these efforts, came about due to federal laws limiting air pollution levels to protect both the environment and human health.

Types of Alternative fuels


Biofuels are chemicals made from cellulosic biomass such as herbaceous and woody plants, agricultural and forestry residues, and a large portion of municipal solid and industrial waste. The two most common types of biofuels that are being developed and used in the United States. Corn ethanol and soy-based biodiesel have a positive net energy balance and burn more cleanly than gasoline and diesel. Their use strengthens rural economies, decreases America's dependence on imported oil, reduces air and water pollution, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. . Biofuels are domestically grown renewable fuels - reducing our reliance on foreign oil.

Biodiesel - view our online fact sheet


Electricity used to power vehicles is commonly provided by batteries. The batteries are charged from electricity that is produced at a power plant. Most power plants today still use fossil fuels to produce energy, therefore this type of fuel is not renewable. The number one benefit to owning and electric vehicle is that there are no tailpipe emissions. However, emissions are created at the power plant.

Hybrid Electric Vehicles (Electricity and Gasoline)

Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) combine the internal combustion engine of a conventional vehicle with the battery and electric motor of an electric vehicle, resulting in twice the fuel economy of conventional vehicles. Honda, Toyota and Ford are currently selling this technology. The links below are from the U.S. Department of Energy's site


Ethanol that is not made from cellulosic biomass is made directly from the crop grain. This is a renewable fuel. Although ethanol is used in 10 or 15 percent blends with gasoline to create gasohol, it is not considered an alternative fuel unless it is mixed at 85 percent with gasoline to create E-85.


Methanol is an alcohol fuel. Today most of the world's methanol is produced by a process using natural gas as a feedstock. The alternative methanol fuel currently being used is M-85.

Natural Gas

Natural gas is produced either from gas wells or in conjunction with crude oil production. Natural gas is consumed in the residential, commercial, industrial, and utility markets. The interest for natural gas as an alternative fuel stems mainly from its clean burning qualities, its domestic resource base, and its commercial availability to end-users.

Propane (LPG)

Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) consists mainly of propane, propylene, butane, and butylene in various mixtures. However, for all fuels in the United States, the mixture is mainly propane. It is produced as a by-product of natural gas processing and petroleum refining. The components of LPG are gases at normal temperatures and pressures. Most of the LPG used in the United States is produced domestically. Propane has been used as a transportation fuel around the world for more than 60 years. Missouri has approximately 320 propane fueling sites.


Some research has gone in to evaluating how solar energy may be used to power vehicles; however, the long term possibility of operating a vehicle on solar power alone is very slim. Solar power, may however, be used to run certain auxiliary systems in the vehicle. Solar energy is derived from the sun. In order to collect this energy and use it to fuel a vehicle, photovoltaic cells are used.