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Why Do We Still Use Gasoline?

Cliff posted more than 14 years ago | from the there's-gotta-be-better-fuel-out-there dept.

Science 940

Fed-Up-With-Fuel-Price-Whining asks: "Why are people still looking toward the gasoline companies for fuel? Is it because gasoline in a combustion engine is the most efficient, or is it because oil companies buy off the efforts of other possiable fuels? Fuel cells are a much better and cleaner way to use the fuel and there are other fuels out there with MUCH better potential than gasoline. Why don't people stop their crying and answer the oil companies jacking up of prices by converting their cars to other fuels?" Good question. The problem for most of us, I think, is availability. You mention Arizona, USA but what about the other American states? If something like this could be done here in good ole Virginia, I'd happily switch, assuming there existed a decent number of places to refuel. Honestly, if this were to be a reality for the states, alternate fuel sources and the infrastructure to support them would have to evolve pretty much simultaneosly. What do you think?

"Here in Arizona it costs around $6000 to convert your car to natural gas. If you do it Arizona will PAY the $6000 to convert the car. If you buy more than $280.00 a year in gas you will not have to pay for taxes or registration of your car.

I don't know, it just seems like a MAJOR buy off by the oil companies, the gas stations, and politicians. I know for FACT in Brazil you are able to buy a car which burns gasoline or methonol. And the Gas Stations have BOTH gasoline and methanol pumps. The methanol cars are still combustion engines.

There is one problem I know of methanol based cars. They are more like diesel engines. They are hard to start in COLD weather. But if they were converted from combustion to fuel cell based they would be even more efficient and much cleaner burning."

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This is true (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#932527)

My ex-girlfriend's dad was a chemist who was developing pollution-reducing fuel additives that were significantly more efficient than the current stuff that is being used in many states. His lab was mysteriously sabotaged twice by some power(s) that didn't want this stuff to become available. So there are definitely other reasons besides lack of innovation that similar advances haven't come to light.

Re:Part of the problem is Infrastructure (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#932529)

Small aircraft engines still use leaded gasoline because it is VERY expensive to certify a new engine, and the market has not yet been able to justify it.

Lycoming and Continental, the two major engine manufacturers, have provided methods to adapt some of their engines to use mogas (automobile gasoline), and some engine manufacturers are working to develop diesel engines.

It's hard to say which will come to market first:
Diesel engines

Each of these is being researched and developed, but the certification process is so complex, it will be years before any are in mass production.

Re:You are a couple years late (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#932530)

Here are the links:



And even if it were removable... (1)

Cardinal (311) | more than 14 years ago | (#932535)

It probably wouldn't be a standard size/capacity/shape between car manufacturers. It'd be like trying to offer a central place to replace everybody's cel phone battery.

Alternatives... (1)

pb (1020) | more than 14 years ago | (#932542)

If you don't like it, go build a still.

That's what people did when I was in the mountains. It's cost-effective, too, provided that vegetable matter stays cheaper than gas...
pb Reply or e-mail; don't vaguely moderate [] .

Re:Probably Because... (1)

jafac (1449) | more than 14 years ago | (#932546)

Have you ever been "stuck" behind one of these 80+ MPG cars on the highway?

I was on a road trip up to San Francisco on HWY 101, we were all breezing along at a leisurely 85 MPH, when all of a sudden, everyone was tapping their brakes. The problem was, a long line of Semi-trucks were slowly threading their way, one by one, in the left lane, past this little Honda hybrid, maxxed out at 50.

The good Lord only gave me so many seconds of life on this world. I don't want to spend them in transit, waiting behind slow cars.

When fuel cells or electrics produce cars that are PRACTICAL, then we'll see it. Otherwise, Gasoline is the only viable alternative right now. Yes, the seven sisters (oligopoly of Oil companies) have done their best to buy off any alternatives, especially including mass transit - and their distribution network is unbreakable. It's sad really. Electric is probably the only technology that's going to compete because it has a comparable distribution network (anyone's home is a potential filling station). But for now, electrics' performance, range, cost, and negative environmental impact are all inferior to gas.

if it ain't broke, then fix it 'till it is!

Re:Why Gasoline? (1)

fialar (1545) | more than 14 years ago | (#932547)

Actually, it's not cheaper. Gas prices in the U.S. are kept artificially low. Look at the prices in Europe; they are about 4x more.


Fuel cells aren't the only technology (1)

fialar (1545) | more than 14 years ago | (#932548)

We also have solar and wind being really important sources.

When my state (NJ) de-regulated the power companies, I immediately signed up for Green Mountain [] . They generate their electricity through Solar, Wind, and Hydroelectric.

Granted, I am still waiting for my signature form because they require a signature in order to switch you over.

People need to cut their consumption down, but the problem is that in the United States, everything is so far apart and we don't have a very good public transportation system. If I lived close enough to ride my bike to work or could take a bus or train, I definitely would do it!

Sport Utility Vehicles, on the other hand, should be kept to the same pollution restrictions as cars. I think that they are contributing all too much to the pollution problem. I was kind of hoping the rise in gas prices would deter people from buying these behemoths. :(


Re:Probably Because... (1)

DAldredge (2353) | more than 14 years ago | (#932556)

They cost more?
They do not perform as well?

Where are this magical 80+MPG cars? If they worked they would be sold, It is that simple.

Cool alternative fuel - biodiesel (1)

Eric Wayte (4583) | more than 14 years ago | (#932577)

To me, the coolest alternative idea is biodiesel from recycled cooking oil. You pull up to the drive thru and along with your Big Mac and fries, you top off the car! McDiesel!!

Check out for more.

Many states are already using an 80/20 mix of No. 2 diesel and biodiesel to reduce emissions.

Re:Part of the problem is Infrastructure (1)

David Ishee (6015) | more than 14 years ago | (#932580)

<i><blockquote>Plus the modern gas engine is very efficient, it produces a good amount of power for the fuel that you
feed it. Ok some people buy SUV's that have much more engine than they need, but thats another point.</blockquote></i>

Actually, they are not that efficient. I think on the order of 30% of the energy in the fuel gets used for useful work. Much of it is wasted as heat (hence the need for the radiator; if it was more efficient, less energy would end up as heat).

However, gasoline has such a high energy density that there is still a useful fuel. Your statement about the "power for the fuel that you feed it" is really about energy density.

Boo Hoo! It's So Expensive! (1)

Seumas (6865) | more than 14 years ago | (#932586)

I don't have sympathy for people who whine about gas prices. You know what? I'm in my mid-twenties, make a high salary -- and I RIDE THE BUS.

It's fast, it's easy, it's cheaper than hell and there's no traffic.

If you want to take up space on the freeway with your SUV (with no passengers, usually), dump some carbon-dioxide into the air and suck up some unreplenishable fuel sources, then shut up and pay your $2.00 per gallon.

Re:Gasoline Bites, Cars Bite (1)

Bob McCown (8411) | more than 14 years ago | (#932594)

The mass-transit idea is one that is a hot button for me. I'd gladly pay $5.00 for a gallon of gas, if the $4 in taxes went directly to fund public transportation. If I could walk the mile from my house to the main road, and hop on a bus/train/something, and 45 minutes later get off near work, Id do it. Id only drive my car when I WANTED to, not as general transport.


Electric Cars (1)

mtnbkr (8981) | more than 14 years ago | (#932595)

GM has an electric car on the market (or used to. However, at $30k, it was way too expensive. Also, it was small. I've only seen recharging stations for such cars in California (and then, only at one place in San Jose).

I wouldn't buy an electric car these days. An infrastructure doesn't exist, nor are they priced properly (when I can get a midsized sedan for $20k, I'll reconsider).


Natural Gas? (1)

Umbro2 (9955) | more than 14 years ago | (#932602)

I've heard the distate some guys that work for one of the power companies here in NJ have for their natural gas vehicles. The company has some gasoline vehicles as well as some natural gas vehicles and they fight to not get a natural gas van. They told me they feel the vans have limited range and take all night to fuel up. Arizona may pay you 6000$ for your conversion but it seems to me you have to undergo a lot of hassle. On top of that until a large infrastructure is available to support alternate fueling methods you're not going to see a large shift in the publics use of the alternate fuel. Oil companies don't need to pay anyone off its very pricey to create the infrastructure.

Re:Petrol prices... (1)

pivo (11957) | more than 14 years ago | (#932621)

We don't get around much in the US. I agree, I find it hard to understand why we're complaining so loudly about our extremely cheap fuel prices.

Gasolines Strong points (1)

Lord Kano (13027) | more than 14 years ago | (#932649)

It's relatively cheap. Even at $2.00(US) per gallon, gasoline is a very economical way to get around. The amount of energy per cubic liter is great enough to offset the inefficient engines that we use to burn it. At least for now.

It's easy to use. To harness the force of a small explosion is easy. Even in 3rd world countries a simple machine shop can build an engine.

Even though it's VERY explosive, losing a gas station isn't nearly as bad as what can happen if we lose a reactor to an accident.

Gasoline will be with us for a good while to come.


Re:Fuel cells aren't the only technology (1)

Lord Kano (13027) | more than 14 years ago | (#932650)

Sport Utility Vehicles, on the other hand, should be kept to the same pollution restrictions as cars. I think that they are contributing all too much to the pollution problem. I was kind of hoping the rise in gas prices would deter people from buying these behemoths. :(

Jelous or what? My SUV gets better gas mileage than my car ever did. It has a fuel injected Vortec V6. That is far more fuel efficient, than the 4 barrel carburator on my car's V8 engine could ever hope to be. Even though my SUV is a bigger heavier vehicle, it gets better gas mileage.


Those cars won't be common in North America soon (1)

LittleStone (18310) | more than 14 years ago | (#932669)

Take a look on how Americans are choosing cars, you know those fuel cell or hybrid cars are not going to be common in North America soon. Although it's possible, fuel cell or hybrid engine are not as powerful as gasoline engine (otherwise you need to recharge soon, or use more gasoline in bybrid), and that means those fuel cell or hybrid cars are not going to be mid-size or above. Americans like larger cars in general. Streets in many cities elsewhere are not as wide as in North America and smaller cars are more popular. I suspect the demand is so small that production of these cars are not even get to the point of economy of scale. I bet, Japan will be the place you see more fuel cell / bybrid first, then Europe, then North America. Not to be soon.

Because... (1)

MoxCamel (20484) | more than 14 years ago | (#932672)

For the same reason Tobacco isn't controlled by the Food & Drug Administration (in the United States). Powerful lobby groups.

There's also a lack of motivation to research new technologies. The perception is that oil supplies won't run out in our lifetime, so let it be our grandkid's problem.

Humans suck.

I'd do it (1)

toofast (20646) | more than 14 years ago | (#932673)

If our province had that kind of incentive. Natural gas is much cleaner (and more efficient) than gasoline. The oil companies are a much greater monopoly than what Microsoft is, and everyone does complain.

We need a way to show the oil companies that we're fed up of lining their pockets with cash.

We've got the tech and I'm using it (1)

drewish_princess (22098) | more than 14 years ago | (#932691)

It's called a bicycle. It uses a highly efficient energy source that only needs food, water and air to operate and the byproducts aren't nearly as harmful to the environment as a gasoline engine. The best part? The cost, for less than one hundred dollars you too can have a bicycle. So stop killing yourself and the environment and get out of your car.

What are you talking about (1)

FascDot Killed My Pr (24021) | more than 14 years ago | (#932710)

"Now, of course, people outside of cities *could* constrcut decent mass transit..."

They could construct it--but why? People "outside of cities" by definition have low population densities. "Mass" transit requires high populations.

Of course, being from NYC you may consider anything with less than 10 million people "outside of a city". Are you aware that there are individual humans who live no closer than 10 or even 20 miles from the next human?

Lets go electric (1)

heff (24452) | more than 14 years ago | (#932713)

I say we go electric, we'll use nuclear power which is cheap and our lives will be better for it.

Infrastructure (1)

chazR (41002) | more than 14 years ago | (#932772)

There is a huge infrastructure in place for refining, distributing and using gasoline/petrol.

It also has some excellent properties. Huge specific energy of combustion(Joules/Kg), fairly safe and easy to store (with care). If you were selecting a fuel for vehicles from scratch, you would consider ease of extraction, price, safety, specific energy, costs of storage etc. And the answer would probably be Diesel, rather than petrol. In UK the number of Diesel cars has increased enormously over the last 15 years, largely because it is fractionally cheaper.

Other choices: Natural gas is viable. It's more costly to store, but cheaper to extract. It is used to power some vehicles in London. Limited refuelling points is an issue, but will get better. Hydrogen is an excellent fuel, but is *very* hard to store. Vegetable oils are used in some buses in UK. This is quite expensive, and the exhaust smells vile. Electric power is still hampered by issues with batteries. The technology is progressing slowly. Only really viable in cities with pollution problems.

I want a fission-powered motorbike.

Neat idea (1)

halfline (48947) | more than 14 years ago | (#932785)

I think that this would be a very neat idea, especially with gas being as high as it is right now. I just don't think that it's going to happen anytime soon, though. The only way it's going to happen is if big car makers start premaking there cars to a new system and they won't do that until they know it will bring them cash.

Petrol Industry Keeps Worlds Markets STABLE (1)

Wedman (58748) | more than 14 years ago | (#932803)

The Petroleum Industry is what makes the world go 'round.

Seriously, take away OPEC, and suddenly, first world countries are in a panic. Like it or not, we are as dependant on Oil and Gas as we are on computers; This is just not for the reason that we need gasoline to power vehicles either. It's because we need the Petrol Industry to keep our market afloat.

Living in Alberta, Canada (a 'have' province), this reality is very apparent. The success of Alberta's economy is almost directly related to oil and gas. If this industry was to disappear, then my province would be a very poor one indeed.

It's in my opinion that ridding the world of the Petrol industry is not in the best interests of any first world nation. I do believe that technology exists to completely remove peoples' dependance on gasoline, but not our economy's dependance.

Corporate whores. (1)

damaged (60781) | more than 14 years ago | (#932808)

Basically, the car companies are in bed with the gas companies and no one really gives a damn about the environment.

Fortunately, we are on the brink of an explosion of Fuel Cell technology. Much in the same way many countries that are become "modern" avoided the hassle of setting up expensive phone systems by jumping straight to cell phone technology, many countries will avoid setting up huge power grids by jumping straight to fuel cells.

Coupled with an increase in fuel cell production in 2001-2002 we should see companies like Ballard gaining enough clout to join in and form a menage tois (sp?) with the car manufacturers and gas companies.

why wait for tommorow when there's TODAY? (1)

Lightwarrior (73124) | more than 14 years ago | (#932861)

Warning: this may sound like an ad.

I understand that there are alternative fuel sources available; but they're not widespred. Yet. When they do become widespred, I'll be the first one to own them; but I don't enjoy the idea of limiting my driving radius based on location of fuel. But there's alternatives AVAILABLE TODAY - mainly, gas/electric hybrids.

They still burn gas - but they can get about three times the milage. The average milage of the Honda Insight is 65mpg (61city/70hwy)- and can get up to 90+ under the right conditions. Can you imagine going 650 miles on a tank of gas?

I'm not real sure how many other hybrids are available, but they few I've seen look pretty bad. You can get a paint job for about $100, but... and they only seem to come in two-door varieties. The MSRP w/ AC is ~US$20K, which is a little pricey. But considering gas prices around here ($1.65/gal for regular, greater D.C. area), and the current rising trend, I think it's worth it.

more about the Insight []


Re:Use hemp (1)

Shook (75517) | more than 14 years ago | (#932867)

1. LARGE areas of land needed to grow sufficient hemp and/or vegetables. Even more erosion, soil nutrient depletion, and runoff contaminated by fertilizers, pesticides, etc.

2. You can hide cannabis crops in hemp field.
This is the U.S. govt's line, not mine. I'm not trying to get into an argument on drugs, etc., but that is the reason why hemp isn't grown in the U.S.

Re:Probably Because... (1)

Shook (75517) | more than 14 years ago | (#932868)

This is what scares me. Yes we will probabaly switch to some other, better energy source when the oil dries up. But then, what will we use for plastic. It seems to me that alternative energy sources are a lot more abundant that alternative plastic replacements.

UK... (1)

deefer (82630) | more than 14 years ago | (#932882)

In the UK, we are taxed _far_ more heavily than pretty much anywhere else on fuel. There's even a website (can't remember link, any UK KH's out there?) & movement after our government gouged motorists again in his last budget, people are getting cheesed off globally about this.
The fact of the matter is - oil companies don't want to change the status quo. And they can collectively buy any working innovation out there to hedge against a future when we have raped the planet of oil.
Think about it - oil companies have billions of beer vouchers to invest in buying new fuel engines, and sitting on them. Think I'm paranoid? Look at the way OPEC et al are conducting themseleves recently, and you'll understand. Also, read Ben Elton's "Gridlock" for a scary ride...

Strong data typing is for those with weak minds.

Misplaced Blame (1)

cot (87677) | more than 14 years ago | (#932901)

It seems to me that the blame for the continued use of gasoline as a fuel shouldn't fall solely on the general public.

Look, you can never expect people to do what is right only on moral grounds. It doesn't work like that. If it is inconvenient, expensive, and a general pain in the ass, we would prefer to avoid it. And if the only down side is that we need to rationalize away a bit of guilt over doing the wrong thing, we'll do it.

You sound like those people that want everyone to switch to public transportation. Hey, I'd be glad to, if it were more convenient. I'm not going to take more than twice as long to get to work each day, as well as spending MORE money (BARTs overpriced), just to feel all warm and fuzzy about it. The solution to this is not to make driving less attractive (higher gas tax, etc.) but to make public transportation more attractive to people.

And it's the same with alternative fuel usage. Don't try to guilt people into doing it, you're wasting your time. And don't join in with those who feel higher gasoline prices are the answer (-ahem- Gore). MAKE THE USE OF ALTERNATIVE FUELS MORE ATTRACTIVE AND PEOPLE WILL START TO USE THEM. It's that simple. If it's easy and cheap, people will be all over it.

Re:Brazil (1)

steelhawk (90209) | more than 14 years ago | (#932908)

Ethanol melts at -114.1C, boils at 78.5C

Tip: Sick and tired of these tips? Type "set tips 0" any time.
> set tips 0

Re:I'd do it (1)

ChristTrekker (91442) | more than 14 years ago | (#932911)

Heck, yeah! I would [convert my car], too.

I've always thought the gas companies had the auto companies by the neck. That's why we haven't seen cars get any more efficient than about 35 MPG, tops. That's why alternative fuel cars haven't taken off.

I'm sure there are political favors going on, too. There always are.

Americans, I'll be 35 in 2008. Vote for me for President!

Re:Fuel cells (1)

nuntius (92696) | more than 14 years ago | (#932913)

Fuel cells are plenty efficient--the real problem is cost effectiveness. Platinum-based catalysts don't come cheap these days. ;-)

It's called backwards compatibility. (1)

nharmon (97591) | more than 14 years ago | (#932931)

I'm sorry for being to Katzian in my obviousness. But the major barriers to breakthroughs in efficient fuel technology is that our infrastructure is designed to get gasoline into cars. Not pig farts.

Refill stations don't want to install pumps, and pay for fuel that won't be used. Everybody is waiting for the next guy to eat the cost of making this stuff popular.

And in America, there is no market for it. Gas is cheap, a lot cheaper then a lot of other places. Simply put, we like our loud hot-rods. And we're not quick to trade them in for some electric car who's 0-60 is counted in minutes, not seconds.

Honestly, I think the governments of the world need to pour more research into integrating altenative fuels, and less into building bigger super computers crunching nuclear bomb test numbers for a war which will never happen.

Re:Part of the problem is Infrastructure (1)

nharmon (97591) | more than 14 years ago | (#932932)

What I want to know is why do small aircraft still use leaded gas.

Ever since the EPA put out new regulations governing the storage of aircraft fuel underground, we're going to see small aircraft using jet fuel soon.

And now, I'm not suggesting they're going to have jet engines. Jet fuel is very close to kerosene (aka diesel). And they've developed ignitionless aircraft engines designed to use the same fuel jets use. Only one problem,... heat.

You see, small aircraft engines are air cooled. I mean, they better be with all of the air coming at them. But when you get the extreme compressions of diesel into a small engine, you're forced to use liquid cooling. Thus requiring more equipment, thus more weight.

Sad part is, the aircraft industry is putting the most research into alternative fuels,... and will probably b the last to implement them.

Re:Fuel cells (1)

cybercuzco (100904) | more than 14 years ago | (#932943)

Fuel cells are plenty eifficient, between 40 and 60% depending on the type, Your IC engine is lucky if it can get 30% eifficiency, but you are right, they arent space efficient. Your IC engine may be less efficient, but it takes up a lot less space, and its fuel has a high energy density ( especially compared to a gas like hydrogen or natural gas)

Re:2 reasons (1)

Mr. Sketch (111112) | more than 14 years ago | (#932965)

Actually I think they went with gas instead of alcohol because they wanted to drink the alcohol :) and didn't want to waste it in a car.

E+85 (1)

milliyear (132102) | more than 14 years ago | (#933016)

In my area of the midwest, we are starting to get E+85 gas, which is 85% Ethanol, I believe. We have at least one local station pumping it, and I hear there are a couple of hundred pumps in the state. According to our local paper, there are a handfull of cars/vans made in the last 2 years that can use E+85 or regular gasoline. I don't recall the exact models - would appreciate if someone knowledgeable could post them.

The last time I filled up, I paid $2.049/gallon, and the E+85 was $1.699/gallon. Gas prices have since dropped (about $1.699/gallon), but I don't know what E+85 prices are currently.

BTW- Did you know OPEC was boycotting the Milwaukee-Chicago area? I hadn't seen anything about it on the news, but that's what our local politicians would like us to believe!?!?!?

Alternate fuels (1)

Kondoor (135852) | more than 14 years ago | (#933022)

What kind of fuel costs and millage do you get with an alternate fuel. If the alternate to gasoline is 2 or 3 times the cost of gasoline and gets the same or less milage per gallon or whatever unit you measure with, people will not switch. If people switch it won't be because of the environment it will be because of a law or better value for there money.

Why Gasoline? (1)

Anomalous Canard (137695) | more than 14 years ago | (#933029)

The same reason why ftp and telnet are still in use -- huge installed base.

Anomalous: inconsistent with or deviating from what is usual, normal, or expected

Fuel Cells do pollute (1)

logistix (152482) | more than 14 years ago | (#933063)

I'd really like to know how much pollution is created generating the fuel for Fuel Cells. Just because your car doesn't emit pollution doesn't mean that pollution isn't being generated. It's just removed from the public eye.

Noone realizes the Electricity Generation pollutes the environment more than anything else.

The theory with fuel cells is that it's easier to make a centralized plant more efficient and reuduce emmissions and what not, but they're still not pollution free.

Just something to think about.

Why do 86% percent of all computers run Windows? (1)

nerdwarrior (154941) | more than 14 years ago | (#933073)

Think about that. Same deal.

Re:Fuel cells (1)

_xeno_ (155264) | more than 14 years ago | (#933074)

Right now, they aren't even space-effective. The current working fuel-cell car are basically a drivers area, with the rest of the area normally reserved for passengers taken up by fuel-cells. They won't really be feasible for another 20-30 years optimistically, quite probably longer. I know that some work related to fuel cells is being done at WPI [] , but all they have about it is this short piece [] . I went looking for more details, but the "Center for Fuel Cell Studies" link (located here [] ) is greyed out. (As is the fuel cell laboratory link...)

nobody cares enough (1)

wishus (174405) | more than 14 years ago | (#933117)

the reason we still use gas is that the consumer does not care enough to make switching a reality.

the gas industry is like the music industry - old and set in its ways.. it does not want to change the way it makes its living. "An object at rest tends to stay at rest" to quote some newton.

The difference with the music industry is that a force is acting on it - the consumers are refusing to stick with the old ways, and the music industry is up in arms about it.

The same thing would have to happen for the gasoline industry to change. customers are going to have to take it into their own hands, and make a fuss about it.

of course, you can't make an infinite number of perfect copies of your gasoline, and distribute it on the internet. it'd be great if you could, though...


Re:in Canada... (1)

wishus (174405) | more than 14 years ago | (#933118)

Canadian gas company selling "GPL"

I want a car that runs on the GNU Public License!!!


Doesn't affect me - thats why (1)

vichman (175187) | more than 14 years ago | (#933119)

When it affects me - I'll switch. I suspect that every person reading this can also afford to gas up their cars despite the price so until it affects them too, no switcheroo ...

Propane Van (1)

jessohyes (175502) | more than 14 years ago | (#933120)

My dad used to own a propane van that he purchased from his work. This was about 15 years ago but I remember how much of a pain it was to go all the way to his work to refuel it. Plus when it was freezing cold outside you had to release this freezing cold valve thing to find out when the tank was all the way full. If it wasn't such a pain and of course cheaper then everybody would make the switch to an alternative fuel. I think the most promising thing on the horizon are hybrid cars so that you have the option when one fuel source isn't available. Jess

Re:Petrol prices... (1)

mbaker (176346) | more than 14 years ago | (#933123)

I've read that European countries intentionally tax their gasoline very high, in order to curb its usage. Is this true?

It's all about economics (1)

V_M_Smith (186361) | more than 14 years ago | (#933149)

It's unlikely we will see a large-scale shift to cars running on alternative fuels until it becomes economically advantageous for the auto industry. Of course, they all pay lip-service to the idea of environmentally-friendly fuel sources, and throw a few R&D dollars into it. Ultimately, however, we will probably have to wait until the petroleum supplies force prices into the stratospheric range where it actually becomes more economical to convert/retrofit the existing infrastructure to accomadate the alternative fuel sources which are under development.

Because... (1)

tealover (187148) | more than 14 years ago | (#933150)

the oil oligarchy says we have to. As long as the oil companies keep gas prices at levels low enough to compel alternative fuel technologies, we'll be stuck with gasoline.

Hydrogen (1)

speaker4thedead (193887) | more than 14 years ago | (#933160)

One of the problems with moving to fuel-cell based sytem of transportation is getting the hydrogen where it needs to go. We have no hydrogen infrastructure, while we already have an infrastructure for electricity, gasoline, natural gas, etc., but no infrastructure for hydrogen. Infrastructures cost money to build, so who's gonna pay for it? And on top of that, hydrogen isn't exactly the easiest thing to transport. I, myself, want hydrogen bad...fuel efficiency with zero emission, a good, simple solid engine (instead of these complicated monsters that break down every least mine does)

Oil Companies hold this stuff down (1)

Sionik (194218) | more than 14 years ago | (#933161)

A few years ago Consumer Reports did a report on alternative fuels, stuff like ethanol, and a basically said that the technology was there, and that everyone should use it. An oil company(Sunoco?) bought up every single newsstand copy they could get. Oil companies have bought out patents to engines that run on alternative fuels. They know that if the word ever really gets out, then they are doomed. I wish I had the link to this stuff, I think it might be on the Consumer Reports website, and maybe FAS? Anyhow, the point is that the reason people don't have a chance to get this stuff is because the oil companies hold it down. If Joe Gaspump starts selling ethanol at his gas station, how long do you think he'll be able to buy gasoline from the big shots? The US mail service has also started using ethanol cars to deliver the mail. The tech is there, its the man thats holding it back.

Electric (1)

KeyShark (195825) | more than 14 years ago | (#933164)

I'm starting to see more and more electric cars. I know at my job they have a couple parking spots where you can recharge for the day.

cost of gas isn't high -- globally speaking (1)

mblase (200735) | more than 14 years ago | (#933175)

In the U.S., gas prices are often kept lower than in other countries because the demand is higher. It's part of the American lifestyle -- hitting the road, independent travel, driving cross-country on vacation -- and it may be unique to those countries that span entire continents.

By comparison to the U.S., the cost of gasoline in Hong Kong and Singapore is simply exploitive. Japan is pretty well up there, too -- which is why it shouldn't surprise anyone that the first companies to hit the U.S. market with practical electric cars are Honda and Toyota.

Re:Fuel cells (1)

mblase (200735) | more than 14 years ago | (#933179)

It'll be nice to see more electric-gas hybrid cars out there, but with the 3-gallons-per-mile SUV craze going on, I don't think it'll happen all that soon.

I think it'll happen sooner than you think. The advantage of the new hybrid car [] from Toyota is that it gets the electricity from spare kinetic energy that your car generates from going downhill or braking to a stop -- you don't need "electric fuel pumps" anywhere to make it happen.

Propane cars (1)

reason78 (203671) | more than 14 years ago | (#933185)

My school's engineering dept. [] works on propane cars.. They're very clean/efficient and quite powerful.

Our chemE dept. also does fuel cell research. i dont understand why these things havent made it to the maket yet.

What about solar + Fuel cells? (1)

Coq (204365) | more than 14 years ago | (#933186)

What I'm wondering is why these two technologies haven't ever merged. Obviously its hard to develop the infrastructure for fuel cells, but what if the ability to re-energize them was put into the car itself? The car could gather water vapor from the air and electrolysize it using solar energy or possibly a wall plug. Then when it comes time to run the car, the reverse reaction takes place, giving you lots of power.

If necessary (for instance for long trips) The car could have hydrogen put in directly, but otherwise IMHO people don't drive their cars a large enough percentage of the day to need quick active refuelling if they can get slow passive refuelling.

Money (1)

ribone (210771) | more than 14 years ago | (#933225)

We still use it because the companies tell us that we still use it. There is still money left in fossil fuels, and you won't see any "innovative discoveries" until after we've run out of the copious supply that we have now. Of course there's other alternatives right now, but who's gonna push them? The Oil Companies?


infrastructure (1)

jayteedee (211241) | more than 14 years ago | (#933229)

It all has to do with infrastructure. If you search around the web, you'll find numerous sites that deal with alternative fuels, electric vehicles, and fuel cells. But they are all niche products just waiting to hit the mainstream. The very large problem in Arizona is the availability of alternative fueled cars that people can get their hands on. Honda's car is backlogged for about a year. Ford trucks, Crown Vic, etc vehicles are backlogged at least 6 months. The people that have done propane conversions are also backlogged 6 months and the lists are getting longer. At least the fuel source in plentiful. (US centric mode ON)The US gets about 95% of the propane and natural gas it uses from internal sources, very little is imported. I consider this a great thing since we don't have to worry about OPEC hiccups.(US centric mode OFF) Since I personally live in Arizona too, I'll be trying to get in on the rebate deal. From my research, it looks like propane and natural gas run vehicles are SLIGHTLY less costly to operate. The internal combustion engines are also said to have less wear and tear. Oil actually still looks golden after several thousand miles, etc. The real kicker that wasn't mentioned in the article was the $30,000 rebate for vehicles greater than 12000 lbs. I've never wanted to own an RV so bad in my life.

Re:Part of the problem is Infrastructure (1)

microbarn (211245) | more than 14 years ago | (#933232)

you said you want to know why people use leaded gas leaded is much less clean but also much more powerful. in airplanes they use it because power is a greater factor than cleanliness the first cars used this also for the same reasons one other thing is that leaded goes through a few less cleaning processes and is slightly cheaper because of it

in Canada... (2)

Frederic54 (3788) | more than 14 years ago | (#933261)

I read an article in a local newspaper this week, saying that price of natural gaz has doubled here in Québec/Canada... so i don't know if it's less expensive to use gaz instead of gasoline... I don't know Canadian gas company selling "GPL" (Gaz de Pétrole Liquéfié=Liquified Petrol Gas?) like in France, where there's bi-mode car that can run on GPL and normal gas.
BeDevId 15453 - Download BeOS R5 Lite [] free!

Re:battery stations (2)

Jeffrey Baker (6191) | more than 14 years ago | (#933264)

The battery in today's electric cars isn't a little D-cell. It generally weighs many hundreds of pounds, and often is part of the car's chassis.

Probably Because... (2)

Seumas (6865) | more than 14 years ago | (#933265)

Because OPEC and the proprietors of the fuel-grid demand it.

There is no other explanation for 80+ MPG cars existing but not being marketed or alternative fuel vehicals existing but not being properly marketed, if at all.

Alternate fuels will be popular and readily available when the fuel and power grid holders say so. And they won't say so until fossil-fuels have been dried up.

Gas in the US is cheap! (2)

pivo (11957) | more than 14 years ago | (#933275)

I don't understand all the fuss about gas prices in the US. It's so much cheaper here than almost anywhere else in the world. Go to the UK and fill 'er up and you'll see what I mean. Last time I did it cost me $58 USD for a small car.

Natural Gas Prices (2)

crow (16139) | more than 14 years ago | (#933281)

Yes, natural gas prices have doubled in the past year or so, but so have oil prices.

The difference is that natural gas is produced in North America, and there is tons of excess reserves. So when prices shoot up due to increased demand, they drill more wells, and the prices drop back down.

I don't know about the efficiency of natural gas for cars, but for home heating, nothing beats it. (Well, solar is better, but the installation cost is prohibitive.)

Re:Fuel Cells do pollute (2)

crow (16139) | more than 14 years ago | (#933282)

Uhm, you don't seem to understand the difference between fuel cells and batteries.

With batteries, you use the electric grid to recharge. In that case, the pollution is based on whatever power plant is providing the electricity.

With fuel cells, your car uses a chemical reaction to convert fuel (hydrogen, gasoline, or a number of other possibilites) into electricity. Hence, no recharging, just refuling. That means no impact on the power grid.

Why do we still whine about using gasoline? (2)

Benjamin Shniper (24107) | more than 14 years ago | (#933293)

Right. The best alternatives for gasoline are deisel, Natural gas, and arguably methenal. After that, the increasingly nutty ideas are Methane, Hydrogen and Electricity, or even solar.

Unless you've got a moped weight-car with as much of a footprint as a truck, solar power doesn't generate enough electricity. Electricity simply redistributes where the carbon is burned, and Hydrogen is very unstable (and can't be found in a mine like Petroleum). The others all contribute greatly to global warming (especially methane) and are more expensive to get.

Do you want to use Nuclear Power? That would quickly make a toxic, radioactive mess.

So if you're looking to solve the global warming problem, the expense problem, or any problem, by eliminating the dominant energy source, remember the second law of thermodynamics: "Any change in a closed system will tend to make the system more entropic." (more random) Basically any method of generating energy will negatively affect the world in some way (except solar, which negatively affects the sun, slowly).


Re:Why Gasoline? (2)

Vladinator (29743) | more than 14 years ago | (#933297)

That's most likely a factor, but the MAIN reason is that it's cheeper than a gallon of watter or milk. Go to the store and look at the price of just about any fluid in the place - Gasoline is cheeper. And it will remain that way until we run out of it.

Fawking Trolls! []

battery stations (2)

slickwillie (34689) | more than 14 years ago | (#933318)

I've always wondered why one of the objections to electric cars is the battery recharge time. Why not have battery stations where you can go exchange your low battery pack for a freshly charged one?

fuel cells aren't feasable yet (2)

ebbv (34786) | more than 14 years ago | (#933319)

they don't produce the kind of power most people want. you could use a Honda Insight but why don't you have one? because it has 63 horsepower, that's why. it's slow...

when Audi releases a fuel-cell powered TT with 250 horseys, i'll be on the waiting list, until then,.. i'm sticking with the gasoline powered I-4! :)

Why? (2)

Hard_Code (49548) | more than 14 years ago | (#933329)

Why? Because big corporations run our government. Nuff said.

You think we really wouldn't be all driving clean vehicles that much better mileage, or better yet, have better public transportation systems, and using much cleaner more powerful energy sources, if big industry didn't have politicians' hands in their pockets? Government subsidizes this bullshit instead of aggressively trying to find better energy sources.

Brazil (2)

jlcooke (50413) | more than 14 years ago | (#933333)

Brazil uses 100% Ethanol Gas. Why don't we in Canada use it too? Well, ethanol at 20 below zero celcius tends to freeze.

What's my point? Well. There are alternatives. But like the Mac: it's just too damn expensive unless tonnes and tonnes of people use it.


Re:Infastructure/Price of Converting (2)

styopa (58097) | more than 14 years ago | (#933343)

Go hybrid. The Honda Insite [] uses a small effecient gas powered engine to charge the batteries it uses to go.

One small problem, it costs $19000 right now.

Re:Part of the problem is Infrastructure (2)

brunes69 (86786) | more than 14 years ago | (#933368)

I've read in places that even the most modern gas engines are only 50% - 60% efficient

Petrol prices... (2)

Sadiq (103621) | more than 14 years ago | (#933376)

Hi, To a certain extent this is slightly off-topic... but you American's have NO right to call your petrol prices high. Here in England, we pay more than triple what your paying (even at its peak). If anyone needs alternative types of fuel for cars, it's us British... Roll on cold fusion.. =)

Because it's cheap... (2)

digitalhermit (113459) | more than 14 years ago | (#933381)

Even though gasoline prices were very high recently, a gallon of gasoline in the US is still cheap in comparison to the amount of energy it contains. It costs less for a gallon of gas than it does for a gallon of Coca-Cola (sugar water, coloring, some CO2, and gobs of marketing).
Not that I think the oil companies are saints. They gouged at the pump at every hint of a change in oil production, even if the wholesale price won't affect the channel for days or weeks. Their recent BS about dropping prices before the government started noticing was deception at best and an outright lie at worst. It's like the price of memory - a rumor in Taiwan and the prices fluctuate.

Why don't people instantly adopt new technology? (2)

aiken_d (127097) | more than 14 years ago | (#933386)

I don't see what people's problem is. People keep using outdated tech, just because whole segments of the economy are based on older, less efficient technology.

Nevermind that fuel cells and alternatives cost a fortune these days (in *theory* they shouldn't, but they *do* because it's young tech).

Nevermind that not everyone is willing to scrap hige investments in existing tech.

Nevermind that new technology almost always goes through a phase of unreliability, inefficiency, and debugging.

Nevermind all that -- people should drop everything and change from the tested, reliable, (relatively) cheap, and ubiquitous to the new, experimental, unproven, expensive stuff... because it's better!

This seems like a pretty naive topic, no?


2 reasons (2)

jimbobborg (128330) | more than 14 years ago | (#933387)

1. Gasoline is a more efficient fuel than alchohol. It takes almost twice as much alchohol to go the same distance as with gasoline, which is why auto makers went with gas versus alchohol when cars first came out. 2. Cold morning starts are harder, due to the compression ratio of alchohol burning cars.

It's The Standard. (2)

istartedi (132515) | more than 14 years ago | (#933389)

Gas is the standard. Like Windows. Oh... you drive a Macintosh... we don't have any Mac mechanics.

Of course there is also the issue of building out infrastructure for other fuels. If the fuel is a liquid comparable in storage requirements to gasoline, distribution is less a problem than retrofitting all those engines.

If you want to place bets on something that might compete with gasoline, I'd say ethanol or methanol, because they can be pumped like gasoline and the engine modifications are not too severe. Obviously what's needed is cross platform automobiles that can run on more than one kind of OS... err, um fuel. Java cars?

Of course, the Java car isn't quite as fast as the regular car, and sometimes you have to type SET CLASSPATH=/carburator/intake_valve/cylinder to make it start.

Propane might be a worthy competitor too. I've been thinking it would be really cool to drive up to the propane station and swap tanks. That infrastructure is already in place throughout much of the country. The only real motive we need is for the licensing agreement, er.. um... the price on the gasoline to become a real nuisance.

Then we will start seeing all kinds of similar but slightly different fuels competing in the market place. Linux cars.

Urine powered vehicles (2)

sdery (142495) | more than 14 years ago | (#933396)

Honda's Insight's New 2001 Electrical engine :) fall93.html#battery

Seriously, this technology has been out there for a while. I think the time to market and climactic differences have so far prevented these alternative fuel technologies from becoming public. Plus, the performance factors of these AFV's do not come close (yet) to matching the output of traditional gasoline.

It is nice to see that Honda and Daimler-Chrysler are taking the challenge. I'd buy some stock in Ballard if I could :)

Why do we need cars again? (2)

ChiaBen (160517) | more than 14 years ago | (#933399)

Has anyone asked why we use cars? I think it's just an assumption that we need cars. I think a nuclear(electric) powered rail transit system for mass commuting accross country, and also for large items would work as it did in the past(well steam trains anyways)...
and then instead of commuting to work we could live near enough to our workplaces to either ride the metro, the bus, a bike, or walk.

We didn't have cars 200 years ago, and people survived, I think we could probably figure out a way to do it again!

To keep this topic Slashdottish... (2)

mblase (200735) | more than 14 years ago | (#933415)

...people keep buying gasoline cars for the same reason they keep buying WinTel computers: there's a hundred times more places to buy the stuff that goes inside.

Decarbonization (2)

11223 (201561) | more than 14 years ago | (#933416)

Actually, as mentioned in a recent issue of the Industrial Physicist, there's a worldwide trend towards decarbonization for energy sources. Basically, we seem to be switching towards fuel with a lower number of carbon molecules, and there's much research into pure-hydrogen fuels, esp. for fuel cells.

Where I live (Illinois) the fuel all uses ethanol, but the gas prices are jacked up because of the stupid USPTO. Down with patents to lower gas prices! &lt/rant>

A little perspective... (2)

blameless (203912) | more than 14 years ago | (#933417)

Check out The Secret History of Lead [] for a study in corporate greed.

Ford trucks? (2)

Johnny Rocket (207939) | more than 14 years ago | (#933418)

A friend of mine recently got a ford pickup (the model number escapes me at the moment) which can run off of gasoline or methanol. The only major problem he had was the availability of methanol. I'm not sure about the fine print, but it seemed like a good way to tackle the availability problem. He can get methanol when it's available, but if it isn't he's not completely screwed.

Part of the problem is Infrastructure (3)

Zachary Kessin (1372) | more than 14 years ago | (#933425)

If you built a car that ran on say Compressed Natural gas you need to have places to fill the tank. And not just one or two, you need it everywhere. And you need a method of distrbuting that fuel etc.

Plus the modern gas engine is very efficient, it produces a good amount of power for the fuel that you feed it. Ok some people buy SUV's that have much more engine than they need, but thats another point.

What I want to know is why do small aircraft still use leaded gas.

The Cure of the ills of Democracy is more Democracy.

Alternative choices won't make it anytime soon. (3)

Sangui5 (12317) | more than 14 years ago | (#933427)

especially with gas being as high as it is right now

The reason gas prices are so high is because people are buying gas-guzzling SUV's and driving up the demand for gasoline to insane levels, while OPEC has not increased production to match. If any chunk of the population switched to alternative fuels, the price of gas would drop through the floor. The lower demand would also severly hinder OPEC, and possible break the cartel, allowing the price of gas to fall further. But with gas at ultra-low prices, nobody in their right mind would want to pay for the (comparitivly) expensive alternatives.

Car companies will start making high-efficiency cars, since a fringe of the population (myself included) has grown large enough to make it profitable to satisfy the demand. Honda has that new car (the Prius?) that gets ~60-70 MPG, and Toyota is going to start shipping a similar car. The vast bulk of people (at least in the US), however, will still want their huge inefficient SUV's.

I belive a Ford exec said that the company would be overjoyed to stop manufacturing SUV's, but that as long as people demanded them, Ford had to supply them to stay afloat. The solution is in convincing John Q. Public that running an efficient, clean car (gasoline or otherwise), rather than his big, overpowered SUV, is what he wants to do.

Good luck.

Use hemp (3)

PsychoKiller (20824) | more than 14 years ago | (#933429)

and I'm not joking... the person who invented the diesel engine originally planned for it to run on Hemp oil and other vegetable based oils.

Plus it cleans the environment as the plants are growing. I can't see any drawbacks.

Gasoline Bites, Cars Bite (3)

Hnice (60994) | more than 14 years ago | (#933433)

I live in NYC, i ride the train to and from work every day, it's fast, cheap, and efficient, a marvel of engineering.

When i visit my parents in CT, however, you can't do a thing without a car. Now, of course, people outside of cities *could* constrcut decent mass transit, but they don't, and that's fine -- it's a lifestyle choice based on perceived convenience and, to some degree, an archaic sense that one's car contributes to one's identity.

But it's a lifestyle *choice*, and when the price of gas goes up and this causes what were, essentially, forseeable economic impacts, what am i supposed to do, cry?

Stop whining. Take the bus. In addition to saving a couple of bucks, it'll help prevent your kids from getting skin cancer.

[This is without even addressing the point that cars contribute to the breakdown of neighborhoods, and that a quarter of a million americans are killed in car accidents a year. F cars. They suck. No sympathy from me. Gas should cost 6 bucks a gallon, given the harm it does.]

Fuel cells (3)

Mark F. Komarinski (97174) | more than 14 years ago | (#933438)

I don't think fuel cells are efficient or cost-effective enough yet. It'll be nice to see more electric-gas hybrid cars out there, but with the 3-gallons-per-mile SUV craze going on, I don't think it'll happen all that soon.

Re:Gasoline Bites, Cars Bite (3)

aradiaseven (167118) | more than 14 years ago | (#933439)

Even better, ride a bike.

A car is a very inefficient way to transport one person and a box of kleenex.

How about air (yes air) (4)

getafix (2806) | more than 14 years ago | (#933445)

Check out Zero pollution []
Apparently the Mexican govt has ordered 1000's of these to replace taxis.

You are a couple years late (4)

FascDot Killed My Pr (24021) | more than 14 years ago | (#933449)

You can already buy half-electric cars from major manufacturers. Honda and Toyota both came out with hybrid cars this year. Check out the "Insight" and the "Prius".

Interesting subject (5)

TheCarp (96830) | more than 14 years ago | (#933456)

I think the real problem is that Gas has been so cheap in the US for so long. We have had it WAY too good.

Plentiful supply, no shortages, cheap prices. Hell yes I enjoy it too. Even today with higher prices, gas is still fairly cheap.

Its cheap, its what we know. Whn the masses are confortable, there is no push to invest and research alternative fuels. Face it...any new system will need to be able to compete with the existing fuel infrastructure.

As for alcohol based can make your own ethanol and use it to power your car...many engines will run without modification (tho not well...much better to use a gas/alcohol mix). You can even get a licence to distil your own ethanol for fuel really cheap from the BATF. (in the US obviously).

Linday's Publications ( has a book on building a fuel alcohol still that talks about all this stuff. Really good book. Of course the MPG is less than Gas, but it burns ALOT cleaner....and thus keeps the engine cleaner.

I am personally of the belief that there is alot of potential in these feilds. I would like to get a Gas/electric hybrid (the honda insight beats the pants off even my motorcycle for MPG) and see it modified to run off Ethanol or that would truely be a great car.

Infastructure/Price of Converting (5)

Dungeon Dweller (134014) | more than 14 years ago | (#933457)

It will happen sooner or later with enough incetive, but right now, there is a strong infastructure built up in the support of gasoline automobiles, and not one in support of alternative fuels. There are also a wide variety of fuels, and people want cars that run THE NEXT FUEL, not just a cleaner fuel. Also, cost is a big factor, most states won't pay to have your car converted. Most people know how to work on/supe up gasoline powered cars. They don't want to take them in to a mechanic to work on them when they are used to working on them themselves. Mechanics are trained to work on gas powered cars. Companies manufacture mainly parts for gas powered cars. The infastructure to purchase fuel, inexpensively, for alternative fuel vehicles isn't everywhere.

I mean, I would love to have an electric powered car, right? Where would I charge it? Just about only at my house! What would I charge it in? I plug that I have to get specially installed that is more powerful than the ones on my dryer, possibly requiring that I have lines run to my house for the power requirements.

It's not like, "Why would anyone run open source software." When the infastructure is there, and in fact better than that of closed source software. This is something where you really have to use the options given to you.

Re:I'd do it (5)

gwernol (167574) | more than 14 years ago | (#933458)

If our province had that kind of incentive. Natural gas is much cleaner (and more efficient) than gasoline. The oil companies are a much greater monopoly than what Microsoft is, and everyone does complain.

The parallel to Microsoft is interesting because, of course, the first major anti-trust breakup of a company was of Standard Oil in (I think) 1911. The government ruled them a monopoly and split them into a number of smaller companies, which were the forebears of the major oil companies we have today.

The argument against the present oil companies is that they operate an informal cartel to keep prices up. This is one disadvantage of splitting a monopoly - it is much harder to show that a number of companies are colluding to act monopolisticaly, whereas its relatively easy to show that a single company is a monopoly. A two Microsoft cartel may be even worse than one Microsoft monopoly.

Re:I'd do it (5)

thesparkle (174382) | more than 14 years ago | (#933459)

"We need a way to show the oil companies that we're fed up of lining their pockets with cash."

And we are fed up with them paying their employees and paying those taxes. Pesky jerks.

Find a solution that will not result in hundreds of thousands of people being laid off. Find a way that will not result in the economies of several countries being tossed down the toilet which will further result in war, unrest and more people suffering not to mention economic problems for the rest of the world.

Find a solution that when implemented, will be as cost affective as what it replaced. For instance, don't force everyone to buy a new car which costs two and a half times more than a gasoline powered device and then force them to use a fuel that costs several dollars a gallon and have that same device and fuel get the same mileage as their previous gasoline-powered device.

These are just a few of the problems that enviromentalists and politicians usually don't address: What affect will this have on the working person in this country? Using the excuse "Well, it may cost you more, but we know what is best for you", will result in insurrection when deployed in this scale.

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