With Earth Day right around the corner, CarRentals recently published their ranking on the most promising alternative energy sources to power our vehicles. The impacts of gasoline and diesel-powered cars are clear – not only are our personal car emissions harmful, but the production of these vehicles are a major contributor to carbon emissions, catastrophic oil leaks from ships and pipelines, and let’s not forget destructive mining practices.

To give us a little hope, they ranked a variety of alternative energy sources from common ones we’ve all heard of to some that are quite out-of-the-box. Some of the sources ranked include electric batteries, hydrogen fuel, plant-based biodiesel, solar, wind, chocolate, sewage and more. Could your waste coffee grounds in the morning be used to power your car in the near future? Read below to find out.

Ultimately, the adoption of these sources will depend on many factors including our ability to mass-produce, infrastructure, cost, etc. Therefore, in order to obtain this ranking, they looked at the below criteria:

  • Affordability – Both compared to current gasoline price averages and the cost (or hypothetical cost) of production of the vehicle.
  • Renewability – They looked at both sustainability and renewability of the source and some of the benefits it may have over gasoline.
  • Available Tech and Infrastructure – Whether some of the infrastructure is already in place or not, they also weighed in the safety of transporting and holding these new potential energy sources.
  • Exhaust Emissions – These were also compared to average emissions produced by gasoline and the automotive industry.

As a benchmark, below are the averages used:

Alternative Energy Sources of the Future: Gasoline stats
Gasoline stats:
Miles/year per driver: 15,000
MPG (2017): 24.9 mpg
Cost of gas (Oct. 2019): $2.68/gallon
Fuel cost per year: $1,614
Source: CarRentals

Meter Rating

Here is how each of these sources ranked on their scale. Clearly, battery/electric vehicles came in first. With plenty of electric cars already on the road, an increasing demand for them, and available infrastructure to charge them, this was no surprise. Some close followers were plant-based biodiesel, solar, wind and hydrogen cell fuel.

Alternative Energy Sources of the Future - Green meter rating.
Green meter rating. Source: CarRentals

Surprisingly, hydrogen fuel came a few spots after wind and solar. Although it’s already being used by a number of drivers and companies today, gas stations are still quite expensive to build out, storage of the fuel is dangerous and its production still generates gas emissions. Not to mention, most fueling stations are only in the midwest.

Some of the sources that came in last were liquid nitrogen, coffee, nuclear, tequila, and chocolate – with a $227,000 price tag for a chocolate-powered car, it’s no wonder it came in last. Used coffee grounds do pose an interesting idea and a good way to repurpose waste however, infrastructure to collect all used coffee grounds sounds like a pipe dream and coffee is also more expensive than gas.

Sewage was also a surprise. There have been some experiments and tests done where sewage sludge is turned into crude oil. In fact, a car was able to reach 114 mph on this crude oil. It would also reduce our dependence on pipelines and mining. On the downside, this carbon and methane emissions would still pose an environmental concern.

Pros and Cons of Alternative Energy Sources

Below are some of the notable pros and cons of each source, information on how some of these work or could work should they be adopted, and their costs.

Alternative Energy Sources of the Future
Source: CarRentals
Alternative Energy Sources of the Future
Source: CarRentals

All in all, many of these sources sound quite promising. We’re definitely bound to see more growth on many of these including battery-powered cars and plant-based biodiesel, and perhaps some further testing on the other more unique ideas ranked in this chart. It’s quite clear that dependence on gasoline is not going anywhere, at least maybe not in our lifetime but nevertheless, we’re definitely making strides to more renewable sources of energy.

Janey Velasco
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