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Alternative Transportation Fuels

Many of the modern modes of transport cause lots of problems. We are spending more time in our cars and having an impact on our environment and on local communities. In the last fifty years the number of cars on our roads increased from two million to over 20 million, a figure that is still rising.

Cars and lorries cause congestion, noise, local pollution, harm to health, destruction of habitats and biodiversity, and global warming. Transport accounts for around 30% of UK CO2 emissions with the overwhelming majority via personal vehicles. These problems can really only be tackled by using cars and lorries less - and instead looking at alternatives such as trains, buses, trams, bicycles and our feet.

At present about 80% of the world's demand for transportation fuels is met by derivatives from the fossil fuel, petroleum. Petrol, one of the major derivatives of petroleum, is used throughout the world as a motor vehicle fuel.

Public transport can emit less pollution than private vehicles, per person transported, and can be the most sustainable form of motorised travel. However sometimes car use is essential and in some cases environmentally preferable, so when using a private vehicle for a given journey it is important to reduce its environmental impact to the minimum.

Different kinds of fuels are being used today in place of petroleum based fuels. These fuels are classified as "alternative fuels" and can be: biodiesel, electricity, ethanol,hydrogen, methanol, natural gas, propane, p-series, and solar energy. The use of alternative fuels can help reduce dependence on imported petroleum and most alternative fuels improve air quality. The table below shows the best application for some of these fuels. 

Alternative fuels and vehicles

Best application

Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) Smaller vehicles such as cars and light vans that have high mileage.
Natural gas Heavy goods vehicles with depot based refuelling sites
Biodiesel Existing diesel engines without modification
Electric vehicles Urban driving - set routes or short trips
Electric hybrids Currently only available in passenger cars
Fuel cells Demonstration "zero emission" vehicles - not yet commercially available