The History of Alternative Fuels

Topics: Petroleum, Internal combustion engine, Energy development Pages: 11 (4300 words) Published: September 7, 2009
The history of Alternative fuels, or at least the concept of it, has been around since the early days of the automobile. Alternative fuels such as biodiesel, ethanol and methanol, have been produced and used on a small scale for decades. They are now being rediscovered due to the rising cost of oil and the instability of world politics. The discovery of these fuels changed the face of the planet, but since day one people have looked for other fuels that improved over the course of history. Alternative fuel vehicles have a long history, beginning with, Henry Ford. Ford was a conservationist who preferred harnessing nature as an energy source and using zero-emission hydroelectric energy. Henry Ford advocated both recycling and renewable resources like agricultural products. One of his great inventions was the Model T it was actually designed to run on ethyl alcohol, or ethanol, produced from corn. By the time the Model T appeared in 1905, gasoline was readily available, which was not the case with ethanol. Henry Ford also designed a Fordson tractor that would burn alcohol as well as fossil fuel, but never managed to put this model into production, due to high distillation costs. During the Great Depression, Henry Ford looked for ways to recycle waste created by his factories and to help relieve the fuel burden on the public. By mixing one part light oil, a byproduct from the coal in coke ovens, and three parts gasoline, Ford created a fuel that could run automobiles. This fuel was very popular in the Detroit area, although it was never available nationally. From the very beginning, the Standard Oil Company marketed a blend of 25 percent ethanol and 75 percent gasoline in the Baltimore area, but high corn prices combined with storage and transportation difficulties terminated the project. Henry Ford and several experts built a fermentation plant in Atchison, Kansas to produce ethanol fuel. During the 1930s, more than 2,000 service stations in the Midwest sold this ethanol made from corn, as gasohol. Products like Gasohol could not compete with cheaper gasoline and the plant closed in the 1940s. The product Alcohol was considered a fuel during these times and was made from corn, since mankind first learned to cultivate it, but it wasn't until the 70's that scientists realized it could be used in gasoline powered vehicles. Ethanol could power an internal combustion engine as effectively as petrochemicals, but without a lot of the harmful byproducts of petrochemical combustion. It was cheaper to make than gasoline, and would require large amounts of corn, which was good for the farmers at the time. There are several other creators that contributed to the history of alternative fuel such as diesel, which was first introduced by Rudolf Diesel. He ran his first diesel engine on peanut oil that today would be called biodiesel. He believed diesel engines would operate on a variety of vegetable oils. But petroleum-based diesel fuel was cheap and readily available, so it quickly became the diesel fuel of choice. But in the 1920s, the feed-stock shifted to petroleum distillates refined from crude oil during gasoline production. Petro diesel was considered cheaper and more plentiful than vegetable oil; it was also lighter and less viscous. So, Automakers had to modify engine designs accordingly, and vegetable oil as a fuel source was sidelined for decades. The electric vehicles were well developed in comparison to those powered by gasoline and steam back in the 1890’s. 1898 and 1912 were considered the high point of electric vehicles in America. About 86 percent of the cars sold in the U.S. were powered by gasoline; electric and steam each captured about 7-percent of the market, the most in all Electric vehicle history. There are several reasons why gasoline won over electric and steam power. In reality, it was the cheap gasoline-powered car, most notably Henry Ford's Model T and the establishment of an infrastructure to...

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