With fuel prices ever increasing throughout the world combined with environmental concerns around depleting resources and energy efficiency, now seems a good time to look into alternative fuels as both a way to tackle the issue of climate change and a stressed out economy.
Today, fuel remains dominated by oil based resources (i.e. petrol and diesel) yet there are an increasing number of hybrid cars that utilise the greener fuel of electricity and some even utilise water. It’s clear with the amount of research going into this new area of alternative fuels combined with the increasingly prevalent car charging ports popping up everywhere and the proportion of marketing spend being invested in promoting more energy efficient and/or carbon neutral cars that utilising alternative fuels has no signs of slowing down, as a trend.
That said, it’s important to remember that people have been using alternative fuel sources for decades and decades. In the Caribbean, for instance, it’s not unheard of for older cars to be fueled on leftover cooking oil.
There’s no research, of course, into how many of these cars subsequently spend the their life in and out of auto repair shops but this homemade biofuel is clearly an interesting, albeit crude, practice that is much cheaper than diesel, allegedly performs around the same as standard diesel and produces fewer emissions.
Indeed, even in a developed country like the UK, there are a few hundred people that pick up leftover oil from the fish and chip shops in order to fuel their car in this alternative way and cut down the cost of driving. The point, therefore, is that alternative fuels aren’t a new fad – they have been around almost as long as cars have.
There’s currently much research being undertaken in the area of biofuel. There are some quite obscure ideas about what can be converted into biofuel, as an example, the University of Louisiana proposes to use alligator fat (which is an unused byproduct of the farming of alligators for food and their skins), or other animal fat such as cows and pigs.
The idea relies on a new technique where the fat reacts with methanol at very high temperatures in order to produce biofuel. The interesting thing about this, from an investment perspective, is that it can be done within a few minutes making it a strong commercial proposition.
There are many weird and wonderful ideas within the area of biofuel, yet the concept is sound from both a financial and environmental perspective. One of the most intriguing biofuel ideas is that one day our cars might be powered by chocolate!
Research undertaken by Warwick University in collaboration with Cadbury’s (the world famous chocolate producer) investigated how the waste products from the chocolate manufacturing process could fuel a sports car. This was back in 2009, and whilst not much seems to have advanced since that point who knows what is going on in their secret laboratories much like how Willy Wonka spent years perfecting his never ending gobstoppers whilst any visitor was sworn to secrecy.