Alternative Fuels
Myth vs. Fact

Poor air quality can affect our health. Unfortunately, some of the biggest offenders of clean air are personal vehicles. Gasoline emissions from cars driving and idling and gasoline spills at local pumps can have a big impact on the air. Thankfully, there are many alternative fuels available to make cars more environmentally friendly. Learn some truths about alternative fuels and find out which myths are full of hot air.

Ethanol

Ethanol is a renewable fuel made by processing various plant materials known as "biomass." Ethanol is added to gasoline to oxygenate the fuel, enhancing combustion and reducing air pollution.

Myth

Ethanol is made from corn that should be used for food.

Fact

The corn used to make ethanol isn’t the same corn used as food. However, the corn used for ethanol production does produce proteins and nutrients that are used in animal feeds.

Myth

Increasing the amount of corn used for ethanol will lead to deforestation.

Fact

Increased efficiencies in crop yield and ethanol production are reducing the amount of resources needed for ethanol production. Farmers today can grow five times as much corn using 20% less land than needed in the 1930s. Ethanol production has also improved.

Myth

Producing enough ethanol for fuel leads to food shortages, increasing the price of food.

Fact

Ethanol has almost no impact on the price of food. Nearly 96% of increases in the price of food can be attributed to other factors.

Myth

Ethanol doesn’t help the environment.

Fact

Studies have shown that from well-to-wheel, ethanol reduces greenhouse gas emissions by up to 59% when compared to gasoline.

Myth

It takes more energy to make ethanol than it provides.

Fact

Studies have shown that ethanol provides 67% more energy than it takes to produce.

Myth

Ethanol is bad for my vehicle.

Fact

Ethanol is clean-burning, reduces emissions and helps keep engines clean. Most gasoline in the United States contains up to 10% ethanol and most vehicles made after 1980 can run on even higher blends from E15 to E85.

Biodiesel

Biodiesel is a renewable fuel that can be manufactured from vegetable oils, animal fats or recycled grease. The physical properties of biodiesel are similar to petroleum diesel, which allows the two to be blended for a cleaner-burning, emission-reducing fuel.

Myth

Biodiesel is only for "tree huggers."

Fact

The U.S. military is one of the largest users of biodiesel. The National Parks Service, U.S. Postal Service, school districts, universities and municipalities across the United States also use biodiesel blends.

Myth

Biodiesel requires more energy to produce than is provided by the fuel.

Fact

Studies have shown that biodiesel provides two to three times more energy than it requires to produce.

Myth

Biodiesel increases net greenhouse gas emissions when taking into consideration the entire production process from farm to wheels.

Fact

Studies have shown that, compared to petroleum diesel, biodiesel significantly reduces tailpipe emissions.

Myth

You must convert your vehicle to run on biodiesel.

Fact

Biodiesel fuel blends work in almost any diesel engine. Biodiesel cleans fuel systems, which may require the replacement of several fuel filters initially.

Natural Gas

Natural gas is formed when layers of buried plants and animals are exposed to heat and pressure over thousands of years. The energy in the plants and animals is stored as carbon in natural gases. These gases can be treated and used as energy.

Myth

I can’t buy a natural gas vehicle.

Fact

Most major automakers produce vehicles that run on natural gas. There are also companies certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that specialize in converting vehicles to run on natural gas.

Myth

Driving a compressed natural gas vehicle is dangerous.

Fact

Unlike gasoline or diesel fuel that create puddles when spilled, compressed natural gas is lighter than air, which means it rises into the air and dissipates. Compressed natural gas also has a higher ignition temperature, which makes it harder to burn.

Myth

Compressed natural gas vehicles don’t perform as well as petroleum based vehicles.

Fact

Natural gas vehicles perform similarly to gasoline or diesel vehicles in regards to power, acceleration and cruising speed. Since natural gas is less energy-dense than gasoline and diesel, natural gas vehicles generally have a shorter driving range.

Myth

Compressed natural gas vehicle emissions are worse than petroleum based vehicles.

Fact

Studies have shown that natural gas can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 to 30 percent when compared with diesel and gasoline.

Propane/Autogas

Propane is a clean-burning fuel also known as liquefied petroleum gas.

Myth

My mechanic can’t work on propane vehicles.

Fact

Any mechanic can be trained on propane fuel systems. NFPA codes for propane vehicle maintenance are the same for gasoline and diesel vehicles, which means no facility upgrades are needed to service propane vehicles.

Myth

Propane vehicles are not safe.

Fact

Vehicles that operate on propane must pass the same safety standards as gasoline and diesel vehicles. Propane also has a higher ignition temperature than gasoline and propane tanks are 20 times more puncture-resistant than gasoline tanks.

Myth

I cannot buy a propane vehicle.

Fact

Approved as a clean, alterative fuel under the Clean Air Act of 1990, propane autogas is used to fuel buses, trucks, vans, taxis and other vehicles. Availability of propane vehicles is growing, specifically in the fleet segment.

Myth

Propane supply is limited.

Fact

While propane is a non-renewable source of energy, U.S. propane supplies are becoming increasingly abundant due to the increased supply of natural gas.

Electric

Electricity can also be used as a source of energy for vehicles. Some vehicles use electricity as a supplemental energy source while others use it as its sole source of power. Vehicles plug in to power sources and store energy in batteries.

Myth

There are no public charging stations for an electric vehicle.

Fact

There are currently almost 200 charging outlets across Indiana, and this number is growing. Some of these locations are free or charge a small fee for use.

Myth

I can’t afford an electric, plug-in hybrid or hybrid electric vehicle.

Fact

Currently, electric vehicle costs are higher than petroleum counterparts; however, prices are decreasing and fuel and maintenance costs are generally lower over time.

Myth

Indiana’s electricity is primarily from coal-fired plants so an electric vehicle does more harm to our environment than good.

Fact

While it is true that most of Indiana’s electricity comes from coal plants, an all electric vehicle emits 3,521 lbs. less CO2 than a conventional fueled vehicle.