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  • Historically, most cars have run on gasoline,

  • but that doesn't have to be the case in the future.

  • Other liquid fuels and electricity can also power cars.

  • So, what are the differences between these options?

  • And which one's best?

  • Gasoline is refined from crude oil,

  • a fossil fuel extracted from deep underground.

  • The energy in gasoline comes from a class of molecules called hydrocarbons.

  • There are hundreds of different hydrocarbons in crude oil,

  • and different ones are used to make gasoline and diesel,

  • which is why you can't use them interchangeably.

  • Fuels derived from crude oil are extremely energy dense,

  • bringing a lot of bang for your buck.

  • Unfortunately, they have many drawbacks.

  • Oil spills cause environmental damage and cost billions of dollars to clean up.

  • Air pollution from burning fossil fuels like these

  • kills 4.5 million people each year.

  • And transportation accounts for 16% of global greenhouse gas emissions,

  • almost half of which comes from passenger cars burning fossil fuels.

  • These emissions warm the planet and make weather more extreme.

  • In the U.S. alone, storms caused by climate change

  • caused $500 billion of damage in the last five years.

  • So, while gas is efficient,

  • something so destructive can't be the best fuel.

  • The most common alternative is electricity.

  • Electric cars use a battery pack and electric motor

  • instead of the internal combustion engine found in gas-powered cars,

  • and must be charged at charging stations.

  • With the right power infrastructure, they can be as efficient as gas-powered cars.

  • If powered by electricity generated without fossil fuels,

  • they can avoid greenhouse gas emissions entirely.

  • They're more expensive than gas-powered cars,

  • but the cost difference has been shrinking rapidly since 2010.

  • The other alternatives to gasoline are other liquid fuels.

  • Many of these can be shipped and stored using the same infrastructure as gasoline,

  • and used in the same cars.

  • They can also be carbon-neutral if they're made using carbon dioxide from the atmosphere,

  • meaning when we burn them, we release that same carbon dioxide back into the air,

  • and don't add to overall emissions.

  • One approach to carbon-neutral fuel is to capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere

  • and combine its carbon with the hydrogen in water.

  • This creates hydrocarbons, the source of energy in fossil fuels,

  • but without any emissions if the fuels are made using clean electricity.

  • These fuels take up more space than an energetically equivalent amount of gasoline,

  • an obstacle to using them in cars.

  • Another approach is to make carbon-neutral fuels from plants,

  • which sequester carbon from the air through photosynthesis.

  • But growing the plants also has to be carbon neutral,

  • which rules out many crops that require fertilizer,

  • a big contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

  • So, the next generation of these fuels must be made from either plant waste

  • or plants that don't require fertilizer to grow.

  • Biofuels can be about as efficient as gasoline, though not all are.

  • For a fuel to be the best option, people have to be able to afford it.

  • Unfortunately, the high upfront costs of implementing new technologies

  • and heavy subsidies for the producers of fossil fuels

  • mean that almost every green technology is more expensive than its fossil-fuel-based cousin.

  • This cost difference is known as a green premium.

  • Governments have already started subsidizing electric vehicles

  • to help make up the difference.

  • In some places, depending on the costs of electricity and gas,

  • electric cars can already be cheaper overall,

  • despite the higher cost of the car.

  • The other alternatives are trickier, for now.

  • Zero-carbon liquid fuels can be double the price of gasoline or more.

  • Innovators are doing everything they can to bring green premiums down,

  • because in the end, the best fuel will be both affordable for consumers

  • and sustainable for our planet.

Historically, most cars have run on gasoline,

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B1 TED-Ed gasoline carbon fossil gas fuel

What’s the best fuel for your car?

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    林宜悉 posted on 2021/05/06
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