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Guest post: Fuel: Where to next?

Fuel vintage. Picture courtesy of www.e-replica.fr

Australians are increasingly looking to improve the sustainability of transport use. The high level of car ownership in Australia has meant that transport accounts for 14 per cent of Australia’s total national greenhouse gas emissions. Road travel contributes 89 per cent of total transport greenhouse gas emissions. With this in mind, changing to a more energy-efficient fuel is one of the best steps we can take to reduce our carbon footprints. Researching the advantages and disadvantages of the main alternative fuel sources, different engine types and what the future holds for eco-friendly vehicles, can help you make a decision regarding your own emissions.

Petrol 

Pros:

  • Widely available. Petrol is the fuel of choice for many people, and is used for the majority of vehicles so it’s available even in the most remote areas of Australia.
  • Traditional performance feel.  Many people enjoy the experience of driving a petrol engine that often delivers the most consistent performance feel across the entire rev range.  

Cons:

  • High emissions. Not only does petrol release carbon dioxide (CO2 – the main greenhouse gas related to human activity), they also release twice as much carbon monoxide as diesel engines.
  • Inefficient. This is amongst the least efficient forms of fuel available, meaning you’ll use more for less distance travelled.

Diesel 

Pros:

  • Widely available. Diesel is roughly just as widely available as petrol these days.
  • Better fuel economy. Diesel is more efficient than petrol, so it’s great for long distance driving.
  • Performance Feel. Diesel engines can often deliver greater amounts of Torque giving you more performance at lower rev ranges.

Cons:

  • Expensive.  Often a premium is charged for vehicles fitted with a diesel engine.  However, as diesel vehicles generally deliver better fuel economy than petrol engines, you may find you’ll save on fuel costs over the life of your vehicles.

Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG)

Pros:

  • Cheaper operating costs.  LPG is cheaper than petrol and diesel making LPG vehicles cheaper to run.
  • Fewer Emissions. LPG vehicles produce fewer CO2 emissions than traditional engines.

Cons:

  • Less space. LPG tanks take up significantly more room than Petrol or Diesel tanks so you may have to compromise on boot space
  • Refuelling:  LPG vehicles must be refuelled at a proper service station which means if you run out of fuel, you’ll need to be towed to your nearest LPG provider.

Hybrid engines

Pros:

  • Reduced emissions. By combining traditional fuels with an electronic engine, hybrid vehicles can reduce emissions whilst in electronic mode.
  • Better fuel economy. Hybrid vehicles use 10 to 14 percent less fuel than traditional car engines.

Cons:

  • More expensive. Although they are becoming more affordable, hybrid cars are still more expensive than the traditional alternative.
  • Still produce emissions. Despite the reduction in emissions, hybrid cars ultimately still use fossil fuels and produce CO2.

Electric cars 

Pros:

  • Doesn’t require fuel. Electric cars don’t use fuel to power them so there’s no harmful emissions whilst they’re in operations

Cons:

  • Emissions from electricity source. Electric vehicles use electricity to power their engines meaning that emissions are still generated as electricity is produced.
  • Vehicle Range. Currently available electrical powered vehicles have limited range before additional recharging is required making them

Overall, although they’re still expensive, energy efficient cars are becoming more and more common. With the rapid and substantial petroleum price increase in the last few years and the increasing global desire to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, hybrid and electric vehicles will become more affordable and widespread.

Manufacturers such as Toyota, Ford and Honda have already released hybrid electric cars in the market with Porsche and Mercedes to follow. Even McLaren have produced an all new hybrid McLaren P1 Supercar that proves hybrids have the potential to pack a punch. It takes the V8 engine and fuses it with hybrid technology, producing a walloping 903 horsepower in addition to being fuel efficient.

The investment in an energy-efficient vehicle will pay for itself in the long run and it seems it won’t be long until more affordable and high-performance cars start to incorporate hybrid technology. Soon hybrid vehicles will be favoured by motorists all across Australia. Now there’s some good fuel for thought.

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