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CARZ FOR GIRLZ: Understanding Alternative Fuels & Carbon Footprints

No More Oil

Ilyse Gordon

By Ilyse Gordon & Friends
Louisville Bureau
The Auto Channel

What's all this talk about Lithium Ion Batteries, and Electric Powered Cars, and Hydrogen fuel cell? And is E85 short for some kind of new texting phrase? Don't feel out of the green loop if you don't understand new vehicle tech lingo. Changes are happening so fast on the transportation front, it's easy to mistake your dioxides from your diesels.

Get Hip to Your Carbon Footprint
You know a need presents itself for alternative or renewable car fuels because the planet cannot survive on the oil or non-renewable fossil fuels we're depleting. We're going to break it all down in a snap. When teachers or parents or friends start talking about their carbon footprint, they are referring to how much each and everyone of us places a negative or harmful mark made up of greenhouse gases on the Earth. We do this through activities like eating meat, driving a car or taking a trip on a plane. Even just living in a big home, as big homes use a lot of energy to heat and light, can be an issue. So your size isn't just about what or how you drive, but really how you live. It's called a carbon footprint because all the gases from the above mentioned activities emit some kind of destructive carbon, like carbon dioxide. Cars release millions of these ugly molecules. These molecules are what heat up the Earth's atmosphere, or our protective ozone layer. When the sun's rays burn through and heat up our world too much, we get global warming, which is what causes the glaciers to fall apart.

Figuring Out New Fuels
Now that you know the basics, you can see the need for both automakers and entrepreneurs to come up with different ways for us to scoot around. Here's ideas we're using and fooling around with today:

• Diesel – Although it costs more than regular gas and emits about the same carbon dioxides, you do get around 30 percent better fuel economy with diesel. Some engines allow for biodiesel blends.

• Biodiesel – This is made from vegetable oils or animal fats. Sometimes you'll see it called B100, B2 or B5 (the numbers refer to how much of a percent of biodiesel is blended with regular diesel). It's renewable, nontoxic, but difficult to find and smells like French fries.

• Ethanol – Today in the U.S. it’s made from corn or other plant material in Brazil, sugar cane, and therefore reduces emissions. Referred to as E85, in most cases, due to its percentage blend with regular gas. A vehicle that is a FFV, of Fuel Flex Vehicle, uses ethanol. There are many FFVs you can find here on The Auto Channel!

• Electric – You'll see this referred to as EV (Electric Vehicle) or PHEV (Partial Hybrid Electric Vehicle). GMC will offer American's the first mass-produced PHEV vehicle, the Chevy Volt, in 2010. The vehicle will be capable of running on a rechargeable, ion-powered battery for 40 miles before it kicks over to its gas engine.

• Hydrogen Fuel Cell – The cell part refers to device, and the hydrogen to the type of fuel used. Basically, you have a system that produces or flows electricity by creating reactions. The type of fuel can be replaced; in fact, you can use methanol, or its more common name – cow gas. Yes, farts could drive your car!

It doesn't end there – testing is going on for solar-powered or wind-powered vehicles, compressed air power, H2 from water, and lots of combinations, like Bio-diesel, CNG, Propane, Hydroelectric, Ethanol or E85 hybrids. Maybe in 10 years we'll be riding hovercrafts of some sort. Positively Star Wars, isn't it?

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More to come, I promise.