Government plans to ban petrol and diesel car sales by 2032, and for cars to be “effectively zero emission” by 2040 means the clock is ticking. What’s plan b? Biofuels seem to offer promising results, but is this energy replacement substantial enough to power vehicles with heavy loads? FORWARDER take a look at the potential options, assessing which seem to be the best to burn.

Fossil fuels

Whilst the majority of the vehicles we drive are powered by fossil fuels – petrol or diesel – we hope that we can come up with an eco-friendlier alternative. We don’t tend to think about what we’re pumping into our vehicles when we’re stood at the petrol station, but perhaps it’s about time we started. Fossil fuels are made from decomposed plants and animals that have been buried in the ground for millions of years. The problems we are now facing are obvious: the resources to make fossil fuels are non-renewable, and they’re finite. This means that any fossil fuel used or burned cannot be replaced, and we will one day run out of fossil fuels to dig up.

Biofuels

Proving to be a sustainable alternative, biofuels may be the future fossil fuel. What exactly are biofuels? Produced through contemporary biological processes (as opposed to geological processes e.g. fossil fuels), this means the renewable energy is taken from plants or microalgae through the process of photosynthesis. In theory, biofuels are carbon-neutral, which means that the CO2 absorbed by plants is the same amount of CO2 that is released when the fuel is burned. Whilst this carbon-neutral factor is dependent on the land quality when growing the biofuel, this could be the answer to not only making fuel that is renewable, but greener in terms of a carbon footprint.

Gasohol

Alcohol (ethanol) is made from plant sugars using yeast to create a biofuel, which can be mixed with petrol to create gasohol an alternative fuel. Whilst this type of biofuel is not as clean as fully plant-based biofuels, countries like Brazil use gasohol due to their mass amounts of sugar cane to be able to produce a substantial amount of fuel.

Biogas

Biogas is produced when dead plants or animals decay, and the natural bacteria (such as the digestive system in animals) release an organic gas. The natural gas releases less particulates when burnt, however requires more volume, as the energy levels are lower than fossil fuels. Are biogases the future for powering vehicles? It can be a tricky question to answer. Biogas can become a little complicated, as should the surrounding temperature be too low, the production will be too slow, and too high, the production may stop all together if the bacteria is killed. Furthermore, handling biogas carefully is vital, and it can become explosive if the methane levels are too low.

Back to square one? Not exactly.

Research into providing low or zero or low emission fuels has come a long way, and it’s not just everyday vehicles that are using biofuels and economically-powered resources. Freight forwarders are becoming a part of the low/zero emission scheme, including battery operated vehicles. Vehicles that run off of biofuels or electric power may be initially expensive, however the running costs are much more economical, proving to be a long-term investment. The innovation of eco-friendlier vehicles seems to be accelerating forward, along with the Mayor of London’s plans for a greener world.

Rachel Jefferies | Editor | FORWARDER magazine

Government plans to ban petrol and diesel car sales by 2032, and for cars to be “effectively zero emission” by 2040 means the clock is ticking. What’s plan b? Biofuels seem to offer promising results, but is this energy replacement substantial enough to power vehicles with heavy loads? FORWARDER take a look at the potential options, assessing which seem to be the best to burn.

Fossil fuels

Whilst the majority of the vehicles we drive are powered by fossil fuels – petrol or diesel – we hope that we can come up with an eco-friendlier alternative. We don’t tend to think about what we’re pumping into our vehicles when we’re stood at the petrol station, but perhaps it’s about time we started. Fossil fuels are made from decomposed plants and animals that have been buried in the ground for millions of years. The problems we are now facing are obvious: the resources to make fossil fuels are non-renewable, and they’re finite. This means that any fossil fuel used or burned cannot be replaced, and we will one day run out of fossil fuels to dig up.

Biofuels

Proving to be a sustainable alternative, biofuels may be the future fossil fuel. What exactly are biofuels? Produced through contemporary biological processes (as opposed to geological processes e.g. fossil fuels), this means the renewable energy is taken from plants or microalgae through the process of photosynthesis. In theory, biofuels are carbon-neutral, which means that the CO2 absorbed by plants is the same amount of CO2 that is released when the fuel is burned. Whilst this carbon-neutral factor is dependent on the land quality when growing the biofuel, this could be the answer to not only making fuel that is renewable, but greener in terms of a carbon footprint.

Gasohol

Alcohol (ethanol) is made from plant sugars using yeast to create a biofuel, which can be mixed with petrol to create gasohol an alternative fuel. Whilst this type of biofuel is not as clean as fully plant-based biofuels, countries like Brazil use gasohol due to their mass amounts of sugar cane to be able to produce a substantial amount of fuel.

Biogas

Biogas is produced when dead plants or animals decay, and the natural bacteria (such as the digestive system in animals) release an organic gas. The natural gas releases less particulates when burnt, however requires more volume, as the energy levels are lower than fossil fuels. Are biogases the future for powering vehicles? It can be a tricky question to answer. Biogas can become a little complicated, as should the surrounding temperature be too low, the production will be too slow, and too high, the production may stop all together if the bacteria is killed. Furthermore, handling biogas carefully is vital, and it can become explosive if the methane levels are too low.

Back to square one? Not exactly.

Research into providing low or zero or low emission fuels has come a long way, and it’s not just everyday vehicles that are using biofuels and economically-powered resources. Freight forwarders are becoming a part of the low/zero emission scheme, including battery operated vehicles. Vehicles that run off of biofuels or electric power may be initially expensive, however the running costs are much more economical, proving to be a long-term investment. The innovation of eco-friendlier vehicles seems to be accelerating forward, along with the Mayor of London’s plans for a greener world.

Rachel Jefferies | Editor | FORWARDER magazine