The Two Fields of Alternative Fuel are Worlds Apart

Are alternative combustion fuels still viable in the 21 century?

by Benjamin Witter

In the search for a break from oil dependency many vehicle manufacturers have experimented with a variety of alternatives. These alternatives narrow down to two major types. There is the variety that relies on a super powered electric motor either being purely electric, running on a massive battery or fuel cell, or some type of hybrid. Then there is the combustion engine being made to burn something other than gasoline (petrol for those across the sea) such as alcohols or gas.

If one were to look at the information given by the US government they would find a huge number of vehicles designed to burn ethanol for example but a relatively small number of electric vehicles. This would seem totally bizarre considering that with a little analysis you discover a very important difference between the two, electric vehicles are wildly more efficient.

A chart showing the difference between electric and combustion type engines for alternative fuel vehicles.

These alternative fuel vehicles still using combustion engines as their only driving force lose out dramatically compared to even the most middling of electric vehicles. Taking off around the year 2012 this disparity has stayed true for the past seven years even with the 2016 influx of major manufacturers releasing a ton of their first attempts at electric vehicles. There is little to no statistical relation between the changes over time which arguably eliminates the “technology improves over time” explanation. Understandably this is only measuring efficiency for the vehicles but for alternative fuel vehicles efficiency is the metric by how many consumers judge them.

There has been almost no improvement in alternative combustive fuels. The argument to develop these technologies which returns almost no improvements in energy efficiency is poorly supported at best. The only contender is compressed natural gas which operates at the same level of efficiency as the low end of the electric vehicle numbers consistently.

Alternative Fuel Combustion Engine Efficiency for the past 20 years

While electric vehicles are constantly judged on their range they are also improving in efficiency as battery technology is also improving. This natural convergence of improvements will likely only exacerbate the gulf growing between the two technologies. The importance of many high performing models from a variety of manufacturers is that big names like Tesla are not the only companies creating electric vehicles that are efficient enough to comparatively compensate for the ubiquity and convenience that conventional vehicles would provide.

Electric Vehicle Models Efficiency for the past 20 years

From what the all the data shows a single questions arises. Why even bother with the expense of researching these combustive fuels? After two decades of production the improvements in electric vehicles are clear. The average electric vehicle has double the efficiency of the average alternative combustion vehicle all the way up to the breakaway year of 2012, when that advantage increases where on any given year the average electric vehicle can be between three to five times the efficiency of average combustion engine vehicle. What about the alternative? There are times when the alternative option is shown to be clearly inferior and should be disregarded, no longer given equitable consideration or resources, and it is apparent that combustion engines in the field of alternative fuels are that option.