While the attitudes and habits of many senior generation Americans were shaped by World War II, the attitudes and habits of those who followed them are largely shaped by American dependence of foreign oil.
Today the Energy Information Agency (EIA) reports that approximately thirteen per cent of the light duty vehicles sold fit the alternative fuel category, with the market potentially reaching fifty per cent in the next twenty five years.
Most of the alternative fuels attention rightly focuses on light duty cars and trucks because they account for approximately sixty percent of our transportation energy use.
While alternative fuel discussions often organize themselves according to a long list of fuel types, those alternative fuel types can generally be classified under three general headings: hydrocarbons; alcohol and electricity.
Hydrocarbon based alternative fuels come in a variety of forms, with propane and methane (natural gas) the most common.
The above graph provides a breakdown of the most recent hydrocarbon vehicle statistics for the United States. It shows that Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) or propane powered vehicles outnumber the Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) vehicles. The actual 2008 count amounted to 151,049 LPG vehicles and 113,973 CNG vehicles.
The link in the box to the article on CNG vehicles provides greater detail about how the current numbers will change to favor the production of CNG vehicles.
Alcohol based alternative fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel are the most common alternative fueled vehicles on the road today, with the EIA estimating that approximately 450,327 E85 vehicles (those using a blend of 85% ethanol) on the road. Statistics reflecting the total amount of vehicles capable of using E85 jump to over the seven million vehicles mark.
While corn based ethanol is the most commonly used fuel, scientists continue to work on using non-corn based plant sources such as switchgrass and algae as fuel sources.
Traditionally, consumers associate electricity based fuels with batteries in vehicles. In fact, while hybrid cars, those that use a combination of battery power and gasoline power, dominate the market, technically they are not classified as alternative fuel vehicles because they use gasoline.
Notwithstanding technicalities, the EIA estimates that in 2008, 324,801 hybrid electric vehicles were produced for the United States market, second only to E85 vehicles.
The next generation plug-in hybrids, that use electricity charged batteries for short distance travel, do meet the technical alternative fuels definition, and they are about to reach the market.
Reliable hybrid vehicle market statistics and trends can be difficult to come by. J.D. Power and Associates just released a study saying,
"Combined global sales of hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) and battery electric vehicles (BEVs) are expected to total 5.2 million units in 2020, or just 7.3 percent of the 70.9 million passenger vehicles forecasted to be sold worldwide by that year...For comparison, global HEV and BEV sales in 2010 are forecasted to total 954,500 vehicles, or 2.2 percent of the 44.7 million vehicles projected to be sold through the end of 2010."
The link in the box to Green Transportation points to additional articles covering all three types of alternative fuel vehicles.
© 2010. Patricia A. Michaels.