Alternative fuel vehicles in the post pandemic era

Mr.Ankit Kumar,CEO,GoZero MobilityAn alternative fuel vehicle is basically an automobile that uses anything besides petrol or diesel. It uses efficient and environment friendly resources and energy that doesn’t add to the existing pressure on a few non-renewable resources like petrol. From being just a known concept in India to actually people wanting to buy and invest in such vehicles, alternative fuel vehicles come with state -of-the-art technology and cater to the needs of people now.

With more and more people wanting to switch to a better and sustainable options, the awareness of alternate fuels available in the market has increased. Some of the alternative energy options used by vehicles nowadays are - biofuels like ethanol or biodiesel or even the mixture of both, compressed gas, hydrogen, electricity, steam, solar energy, batteries, kinetic energy used by electric cars, heat energy (thermoelectric technology), compressed air, nitrogen and LPG (liquified petroleum gas).

Post pandemic world has in fact changed a lot and is calling for transitions in our daily lives and routine ranging from maintaining social distancing and wearing a mask to switch to better vehicles with alternative fuels and energy. In the year 2020 alone, a lot of companies like Tesla,
Mercedes-Benz and Toyota have made improvements in their AFVs (Alternate Fuel Vehicles) launched earlier.

However, since alternative fuels or energy is not that prevalent in India already, it is difficult for most to make a quick change in their automobiles and transportation. The reality of the post-pandemic world has compelled people to think of more sustainable options for the environment and not continue to exploit the resources and pollute the earth at the expense of everyone. We cannot afford to be careless and continue to cause air pollution anymore now.

Having a strong and healthy respiratory system has been emphasised so deeply in the entire situation of COVID 19 and that directly reflects in our choice of fuels and energy which we use for our vehicles and automobiles. We’re here to help make an informed decision about whether should you buy a vehicle that runs on alternative fuels and energy and if yes, which one and why.
It is a myth that alternative fuels cost more than fossil fuels. In fact, alternative fuel and energy has proven to be economically profitable for users. As shown by statistics and cost comparisons by the department of energy’s alternative fuels data center in America, hence proving that alternative fuels aren’t just beneficial for the world and the environment but also to the owner of vehicles that run on such energy.

The only problem however in India is that the concept of automobiles run on electricity, solar energy, hydrogen, biodiesel or ethanol is still very new and people want to first see the applicability of this concept and how it is when functioning rather than diving right into paying a huge sum for something you don’t know might work or not. Also, there aren’t many gas stations in India that have or provide most alternative fuels and energy which can be a problem in the initial stages of people accepting and gradually switching to these alternative energies in India.

The transport industry in India is dominated by oil in a way that it currently has monopoly over it. Interestingly, even if we go looking for “cheap/inexpensive alternative energy used by vehicles or cars”, we may not actually end up with a lot of data on this or the automobiles available. This could also be some set up by the oil industry but that must not prevent us from seeking better options now.

Here’s something to get you started on what are the alternative fuels and why should you choose them:

1. Hydrogen - it can be used in combustion engines and has no harmful emissions, just water. It is also used to power fuel cells and produce electricity. It also overcomes the limitations of onboard batteries and is considered to be one of the best long-term energy sources for cars. BMW has recently announced that new hydrogen cars will be sold in the UK.

2. Biofuel - bioethanol is made from sugarcane and corn while biodiesel is made from vegetable oils and animal fats. They both replace non-renewable crude oil-delivered fuels. Its idea for medium term solution rather than long and the best type is the second generation of which are produced from sustainable resources rather than those grown for food.

3. Electricity - growing popular by the day, this is used in electric cars powered by a motor with energy supplied by batteries. There are some good options in automobiles that use electricity but it can be slightly more expensive than petrol and takes longer to charge. However, Tesla and Nissan have come with very efficient models for the same.

4. Heat - using thermoelectric energy that converts heat into electricity to run cars on. It is being attempted to use the wasted heat from the exhaust pipe and convert it to electricity to cut fuel consumption by 5 percent.

5. Air - compressed air requires a combustion engine and even though its less energy-dense, it produces zero tailpipe emissions. Tata has proposed mainstream air-powered cars.

6. Nitrogen - liquid nitrogen stored in a pressurised tank can be heated to produce high- pressure gas. Can be used to drive a piston or rotary engine. However, it isn’t as efficient and does require electricity to produce.

7. LPG - this among so many other uses can also be availed to power cars. It is recognised as a versatile low carbon fuel and used productively. Even though it’s not very common, people are wanting to switch to LPG and it is becoming available at more gas stations now.