HomeAirWaterEarthTalk For Educators
Fuel For Thought
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Part 2

Bring on the Alternatives! (continued)
Gas station selling alternative fuels
POV's BORDERS: What else are they basing their decisions on?
MIKE LEWIS: Economics. The cost of these fuels is unanimously less expensive than their gas counterparts — other than biodiesel, which costs a little bit more. In Las Vegas, for example, all the taxicabs are converted to propane and that's purely down to cost.
Mike Lewis
Mike Lewis, Manager, Regional Transportation Center
Do most people find it hard to break the gas habit?
There's a huge interest in all of these alternative fuels. But when it comes down to writing a check, 99 percent of the people go away. We try to assure them that alternative fuels and vehicles are available now. The fact is you can buy a vehicle behind me today and fill it up with ethanol and go — same thing with natural gas and biodiesel. My biggest frustration is that we tell people we have this alternative vehicle center and all I hear is hydrogen and fuel cells.
The US auto industry is going to pump out about 16 million vehicles a year in the next 10 years. So you're either going to write off those 160 million vehicles and say 'Well we're going to run them all on gas or diesel' or you're going to offer some of them as alternative fuel vehicles until hydrogen is a reality.
Aren't AFVs typically more expensive than regular gasoline vehicles?

For more on the many blends of biodiesel, visit the Biodiesel.org website.
Ethanol and Biodiesels don't cost any more than their gasoline or diesel counterparts. CNG can be up to $7,000 more but you get a $5,000 rebate from the county. Propane can be up to $6,000 more but you factor in that the cost of propane is currently $1.29 per gallon as opposed to gasoline, which is currently around $2 [in California].
Are hybrid cars a better choice?
A lot of people love hybrids because they aren't different. You just go put gas in your car and go. Ford will bring out the Ford Escape in 2004, which will be the first hybrid SUV. We can talk all day about how Americans should drive alternative fuels or should drive smaller cars or should buy hybrids, but we all know they're buying SUVs. Hopefully by creating a hybrid SUV, they'll be putting something forward that there's huge public demand for and that's good for the environment.
What do you say to people who might be interested in switching to alternative fuels but are worried about the lack of places to fill up?
With the flexi-fuel vehicles, where you can switch back to gasoline if you need to, the only time it becomes an issue of finding fuel is with natural gas, particularly a vehicle that only runs on natural gas. There aren't a lot of natural gas fueling stations around. In this area, there are eight in San Diego and about 41 in Los Angeles. For anyone who wants to buy a natural gas vehicle, we also sell these products called fuel makers that let you tap in to the natural gas in your home and compress it out of the pipes into your vehicle over night. It takes about a gallon an hour. You can literally never go to a fuel station!
Which of the alternative fuels is most likely to catch on?
I can bring you people who say ethanol is the future; others who say it's biodiesel or natural gas or dedicated electric or hybrid or fuel cells... we pretty much let the public decide. They're all here with equal billing and almost every one is less expensive than gasoline. But no one can argue that we're inevitably going to run out of oil, which means we will inevitably run out of gasoline.
When this will happen and which fuel will win out? It's just a 10-hour argument!

Related Links

The Ford Escape, the First Hybrid SUV
Alternative-Fueled Vehicles FAQ

Play Video | Go Back to Part One | Bottle This! Float to the top of the page on this cloud.

Do It Yourself Chad Olsen refueling with soy-based biodiesel

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Farming for Fuel: Chad Olsen rarely goes to the gas station anymore after he found out he could run his VW on pure soy grown by farmers in Indiana. He even orders his supplies over the Internet.

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