6 December 2004
Alternative Fuel Vehicles
As a quick statement prior to beginning this assignment I thoroughly enjoyed researching this topic. It has been of personal interest to me for years. I have, in the past (as far back as the 1970's), invested my personal time researching designs and building prototypes, which utilize alternative fuels for vehicle propulsion and various mechanical motion applications with a practical approach. This assessment is submitted for the consideration of Lotus Rental Cars Chief Financial Officer, the topic covered is to assist in answering the question of the feasibility of adding alternative fuel vehicles to the rental vehicle fleet. An Alternative Fuel Vehicle (AFV), by design, is intended to improve air quality and the environment by lowering (or eliminating) ozone-depleting emissions. In addition to reduced emissions a more recent socially accepted benefit is less dependence on foreign supplied oil products by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). There are various types of AFV designs in commercial use today, to include hybrid and flexible fuel designs. The most common are powered by compressed natural gas (CNG), liquid petroleum gas (LPG), propane, hydrogen, alcohol (in the form of methanol or denatured alcohol), gasohol (blends of gasoline and up to 85% alcohol) and electric. These AFV types have been commercially available and in use by fleet applications in the U. S. since the 1960's. Consumer availability of electric, propane and gasohol products for personal vehicle use began in the 1970's. Currently, three main types of vehicles operating on alternative fuels are readily available:
·Vehicles contain a single fuel tank capable of operating on alcohol, gasoline or a combination of both (gasohol).
·Bi-Fuel Vehicles, which have two fuel systems allowing the driver to switch between gasoline and compressed natural gas or propane. ·Dedicated Fuel Vehicles, which can only run on a single alternative fuel source.
The publics perceived advantages of these vehicles are that they will be environmentally friendly and will help reduce the dependency of foreign oil imports. Additional advantages are that numerous states permit the use of these vehicles in high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes and offer a tax rebate for the purchase. The United States Government Services Administration provides matching funds to government agencies that participate in the Federal Government's AFV User Program. This is for purchase, lease and rental vehicles. The claims of environmental friendliness and a reduced dependency on foreign oil product imports need to be carefully considered. Of the claim that AFV will reduce dependency on foreign petroleum imports will be discussed next. Substituting LPG, propane or CNG for gasoline use in vehicles would reduce crude oil imports. However, it would lead to the requirement for importing these products from foreign sources. The U. S. supply of LPG is relatively small when compared to other energy sources, primary consumption is in the chemical and agricultural industries. A large change of vehicle fuels to LPG will result in competition with the current users eventually leading to the need for importing. Ironically, the same countries where the U. S. imports crude oil are also the same countries that would supply LPG. A viable long-term option for AFV is CNG. Current Unites States production levels have upside potential as well as Canadian import options due to Canada's surplus of CNG production. The United States Geological Service reports that the North America has substantially undeveloped natural gas sources available, should the demand arise. If the demand were to increase rapidly, the timing of developing new sources locally would not fill consumer needs. Short-term imports of liquid natural gas (used to make CNG) would be required; also from the same OPEC...