Light Vehicle Alternative Fuels and
Fuel Economy Related Technologies
Economies throughout the developing world have been undergoing rapid growth over most of
the last 20 years, notably China and India.
Increasing economic growth is leading to increased
global transportation demand.
Since most means of transportation currently use petroleum-based
fuels, there is an increasing demand for petroleum resources.
At the same time, security issues
and environmental concerns are calling for lessening dependence on petroleum.
growing demands on a global basis, it is not surprising that alternative fuel technologies in the
automotive sector are rising in importance.
This paper reviews major light vehicle (car and light truck) fuel and fuel saving technologies
either currently available or on the horizon that can be employed to reduce global petroleum
diesel, alcohols (butanol and ethanol), biodiesel, straight vegetable oil,
biomass-based diesel and gasoline, coal- or natural gas-based diesel and gasoline, natural gas,
hybrids, plug-in hybrids, electric vehicles, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, electrification of
accessories, vehicle light weighting, advanced drive train technologies, as well as vehicle use
Today, diesel is the main alternative fuel to gasoline worldwide.
While it is still petroleum-
based, the technology for its use is widely available and increasing its use can reduce oil
Diesel engines can provide 25 percent more fuel efficiency and more torque at
lower rpm than gasoline engines.
Due to thicker castings and higher quality components needed
to withstand the higher pressures and torque of diesel combustion, comparative diesel engines
tend to be more expensive to produce and have higher upfront costs for consumers though the
lower fuel costs from increased efficiency can usually payback those increased upfront costs in a
While diesel engines account for approximately half of the European market, they have not been
popular in the United States, accounting for less than one percent of light vehicle sales.
the reasons for this discrepancy have been the U.S. diesel fuel’s historically higher sulfur content
(compared to Europe), strict U.S. air pollution regulations for nitrous oxides and particulates, and
European tax advantages for diesel-fuelled vehicles (making diesel fuel cheaper versus gasoline
In addition, U.S. consumers have not been interested because they remember the
noisy, smoky, unreliable diesel engines offered in the 1980’s; therefore bad associations remain
in consumer perceptions regarding diesels, despite significant improvements made in diesel
technologies over the past 25 years.
However, federal rules will require refiners to sell only ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuel in the United