Alternative Fuels Alternative Fuels
As all parties try to reduce the impact of transport on the environment, there has been development of alternatives to the mainstream fuels (petrol and diesel). These can offer a range of advantages - but unless there is already some clear idea about fuel use in the fleet, just picking an alternative fuel could be counter-productive.
Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) is a waste product that can be used to reduce the total need for petrol. Engines (always petrol) need to be modified to run on LPG, and a separate fuel tank and system must be fitted. There is fairly good access to refuelling, but now LPG is seen as a niche market product rather than as a good general-purpose solution.
Hybrids use a combination of a small, high-efficiency engine (usually petrol - though diesels are under development) and a battery-powered electric motor. Clever electronics balance the use of each power-source to suit roads conditions. The on-board batteries are charged when the engine is idling and when the brakes are applied - by converting the motion of the car into electric current. Performance is good when urban or other stop-start motoring is involved, but less attractive if the car is used mostly on faster open roads since there is less braking.
Bio-fuels are non-fossil fuels produced from crops, so have a reduced climate change impact. There are two forms - bio-ethanol which can replace petrol, and bio-diesel, which can be used in high concentrations, but is most commonly found as a simple additive and "extender" to ordinary fossil diesel. The bio-ethanol solution is only available in a few specific models, and (early 2008) has availability limited to just a few areas of the country. Bio-diesel as an extender is already in fairly wide-spread use across most of the UK.