Top 9 Things You Didn’t Know About Alternative Fuel Vehicles

on March 02, 2015 at 5:00 PM

Denver International Airport is one of many airports across the U.S. that is turning to alternative fuel vehicles. The airport maintains 324 alternative fuel vehicles, including 210 buses, sweepers, and other vehicles that use compressed natural gas, and 114 electric and hybrid-electric vehicles. As of 2010, alternative vehicles made up 32 percent of the airport’s fleet. | Photo courtesy of Dean Armstrong, NREL.


This article is part of the series highlighting the “Top Things You Didn’t Know About…” Be sure to check back for more entries soon.

9. An alternative fuel vehicle is designed to run on at least one alternative fuel other than gasoline or diesel. Currently, there are more than a dozen alternative fuels in production or under development with the goal of helping to cut our domestic oil consumption and potentially reduce vehicle emissions.

8. Thinking about buying an electric vehicle? You have plenty of options to choose from with three types of vehicles that use electricity as a fuel source or to improve efficiency: all-electric, plug-in hybrid electric and hybrid electric vehicles. An all-electric vehicle has an electric motor and is only powered by electricity stored in a battery. Plug-in hybrids and hybrid electric vehicles have both an internal combustion engine and an electric motor and mostly use the battery to reduce idling and supplement the power from the gasoline engine. The difference is a plug-in hybrid’s battery can be plugged in, whereas a hybrid electric vehicle’s battery is only charged by the internal combustion engine or regenerative braking. Learn more about the different types of electric vehicles.

7. From biodiesel and natural gas to electricity and hydrogen, there are more than 10,160 alternative fueling stations across the United States. Check out our alternative fueling map for a station near you.

6. We use natural gas to heat our homes and cook our food, but did you know it is also used as a vehicle fuel? Inexpensive, domestically produced and one of the cleanest burning fuels for vehicles with internal combustion engines, it is no wonder that nearly 20 percent of all new buses run on natural gas.

5. More efficient than conventional internal combustion engine vehicles and better for the environment, hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles have the potential to revolutionize our transportation system. While fuel cell vehicles and the hydrogen-fueling infrastructure are in the early stages of development, fuel cell forklifts are beginning to take off with more than 3,000 deployed or on order at the end of 2011. Learn more about how hydrogen fuel cells are used in transportation.

4. During the 1900 World Exhibition in Paris, Rudolf Diesel — the inventor of the diesel engine — demonstrated an engine that could run off of oil extracted from peanuts. More than a century later, biodiesel — which is made from vegetable oils, animal fats or restaurant grease — is one of the fastest growing alternative fuels in the United States.

3. Propane — also known as liquefied petroleum gas — has been used to fuel vehicles for decades. There are more than 270,000 propane vehicles on the road today in the U.S. and more than 10 million worldwide, according to the Propane Education and Research Council. Propane is mainly used to fuel fleet vehicles because of its relatively low costs and widespread fueling infrastructure.

2. Have you ever thought of putting fuel made from algae in your gas tank? One day that could be a reality. Energy Department scientists and researchers are exploring ways to produce renewable biofuel from algae. Algae-based biofuels have the potential to replace up to 17 percent of the oil the U.S. imports for transportation. Watch our Energy 101: Algae-to-Fuels video to learn how algae are converted into fuel.

1. Electric vehicles are not a new technology. Dating back to the early 1900s, electric vehicles were some of the first automobiles made in the United States and were popular with those who lived in cities. Although technology has progressed drastically since then, people still love how clean, quiet and efficient all-electric vehicles are. Explore the National Museum of American History’s America on the Move exhibit to see automotive technologies throughout the ages.

Want to know more about alternative fuel vehicles? Check out the Alternative Fuels Data Center for information about alternative fuel basics, benefits, vehicles and more.