Alternative Fuels for Automobiles - Free Information

Alternative Fuels for Automobiles - Free Information

Vehicles that operate primarily on gasoline or diesel have historically accounted for over 99% of cars and passenger truck sales. Now, sales of cars that operate on alternative fuels like ethanol, natural gas, and electricity are growing. Millions of flexible fuel vehicles - vehicles that can run on either E85 (a mixture of about 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline) or gasoline - have been sold in the past decade.

Alternative fuels include gaseous fuels such as hydrogen, natural gas, and propane; alcohols such as ethanol, methanol, and butanol; vegetable and waste-derived oils; and electricity. These fuels may be used in a dedicated system that burns a single fuel, or in a mixed system with other fuels including traditional gasoline or diesel, such as in hybrid-electric or flexible fuel vehicles.

Some vehicles and engines are designed for alternative fuels by the manufacturer. Others are converted to run on an alternative fuel by modifying the engine controls and fueling system from the original configuration.

Biodiesel Fuel Fact Sheets

Learn more about converting a vehicle or engine to run on a different fuel.

links to EPA and non-EPA Web-based resources that provide additional information on transportation and fuels. Links go directly to specific Web sites or documents that address fuel-related trends and issues.

Many alternative fuels "burn" cleaner than gasoline or diesel so there are fewer tailpipe emissions. The amount of greenhouse gases (GHG) emitted when the fuel is produced depends on the source of the fuel - see GHG Emission for more information . These fuels can also be produced domestically, reducing our dependence on imported petroleum. Click on the tabs below to learn more about each fuel.

*The sources displayed above are not intended to cover all possible feedstocks, or sources, nor do they reflect equal fractions of fuel production.

GHG Emissions

Many of these fuels, depending on how they are produced, reduce overall emissions of CO2 into the atmosphere. Each one reduces the amount of CO2 emitted directly from the vehicle's tailpipe relative to gasoline or diesel. In fact, operating a vehicle exclusively on electricity or hydrogen produces no harmful tailpipe GHG emissions! The amount of GHGs emitted when the fuel is produced depends on the source of the fuel. For example, generating electricity from coal creates far more emissions than electricity generated from renewable sources like wind. Learn more about emissions associated with electric vehicles .

Want to Know More?

DOE's Alternative Fuels Data Center  provides information on the basics, benefits and considerations, station locators, compatible vehicles, and financial incentives for various fuels.

Visit Alternative Fuels and E85 for more information about alternative fuels and vehicles.

For basic fact sheets on E85 and biodiesel, see:

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Resources

  • Alternative Fuels
    Includes fact sheets on compressed natural gas, biodiesel, electric vehicles, ethanol, Fischer-Tropsch, liquefied natural gas, methanol, and propane.
  • Clean Fuel Fleets
    Provides information about the Clean Fuel Fleet Program, including lists of certified alternative fuel vehicles, lists of certified heavy-duty engines, and EPA regulations and guidance.
  • Green Vehicle Guide
    Provides consumers with information on vehicle emissions, advanced technology vehicles, and alternative fuels - plus infographics, calculators, videos, and the ability to search for SmartWay certified cars and trucks.
  • Fuel Cells and Vehicles
    Provides an overview of EPA's fuel cell initiatives and resources.
  • Reformulated Gasoline (RFG)
    Provides a comprehensive overview of RFG, including data on gasoline properties, regulatory and guidance documents, fuel reporting forms, answers to frequent questions, modeling tools, and other related information.

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Other Federal Departments & Agencies

  • Alternative Fueling Station Locator
    A user-friendly U.S. Department of Energy database of fueling stations to help you find alternative fuel stations that offer compressed natural gas, propane, 85% ethanol (E85), electric, biodiesel, hydrogen, and liquefied natural gas.
  • Alternative Fuels Data Center
    A comprehensive U.S. Department of Energy resource on alternative fuels and the vehicles that use them.
  • Clean Cities Program
    A U.S. Department of Energy program working to advance the nation's economic, environmental, and energy security by supporting local decisions to adopt practices that contribute to the reduction of petroleum consumption, including the use of alternative fuels and vehicles. This site focuses on fuel blends.
  • Consider the Alternatives: Alternative Fueled Vehicles and Alternative Vehicle Fuels
    A Federal Trade Commission resource with information for consumers and manufacturers on labeling alternative fuels and alternative fuel vehicles.
  • Energy Information Administration - Alternative Fuels
    Provides estimated alternative fuels consumption data, the number of alternative fuel vehicles in use, survey data, articles, and related information.

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State, Local, and Regional Programs

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  • Alternative and Renewable Fuel & Vehicle Technology Program
    Provides a range of information on alternative fuels related to California's alternative transportation fuels program, in operation since 1975.
  • Drive Clean
    A California Air Resources Board Web site that showcases the cleanest vehicles on the market: hybrids, clean gasoline-powered vehicles, alternative-fuel cars, and electric vehicles.

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Non-Governmental Organizations 

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  • American Coalition for Ethanol
    A national organization representing ethanol producers, farmers, commodity organizations, suppliers of goods and services to the industry, rural electric cooperatives, and others supportive of the increased production and use of ethanol.
  • National Biodiesel Board
    A national trade association representing the biodiesel industry as the coordinating body for research and development in the United States.
  • National Corn Growers Association
    A national organization working with farmers, industry, and government to build the ethanol industry.
  • Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition
    A national organization dedicated to the development of a growing, sustainable, and profitable market for vehicles powered by natural gas or hydrogen.
  • National Propane Gas Association
    The national trade association representing the United States propane industry.
  • Oregon Biofuels Network
    A clearinghouse to support the use and production of biofuels in Oregon.
  • Propane Education and Research Council
    A Council established to advance propane's future as a clean, safe, and superior performing alternative transportation fuel.
  • Renewable Fuels Association
    The national trade association for the United States ethanol industry.