What’s the Deal With Biofuel?

Gasoline may be the most popular fuel powering vehicles today, but it’s not the only fuel out there. Cleaner and greener fuels exist and many are growing in popularity as gas prices remain high and concerns about the environment continue to rise. While none are poised to replace gasoline just yet (issues like lack of space and infrastructure, high costs are keeping that from happening), they could be viable alternative fuel sources to use on a mass scale in the future.

Here’s a brief rundown on two of the more popular biofuels that exist today:

Ethanol

Ethanol is a kind of alcohol derived from corn or sugar cane. Because it’s created from renewable resources and improves gas mileage when used to fuel a vehicle, ethanol is a more environmentally friendly option than petroleum-based gasoline. However, its chemical properties and competing use as a food source have limited its use to a degree.

In some parts of the world, including Brazil, pure ethanol powers most vehicles, though concerns over it corroding vehicles and the pipelines used to ship it make it less widely used in North America. In the United States, it’s often added to gasoline in percentages of less than 10 percent — a ratio that’s considered safe to put in any vehicle. These days, vehicles specially designed to run on blends with a higher concentration of ethanol (up to 85 percent) are hitting the roads.

Biodiesel

Biodiesel is a fuel derived from a variety of renewable sources, including plant materials and used cooking oil. It can be used on its own as a pure substance, or blended with regular diesel fuel. Because it’s created from renewable and reused resources and significantly reduces emissions when compared to regular diesel, biodiesel is a more environmentally friendly option than traditional fuel sources.

Unlike ethanol, biodiesel can replace traditional fuel sources without making any significant modifications to vehicles. Biodiesel is safe to use in just about any regular diesel engine, but gasoline engines would require serious modifications in order to use it.