Alternative transportation fuels and vehicle technologies

August 24, 2009 | 00:00

Alternative transportation fuels and vehicle technologies

By Douglas Arent, Frank A. Verrastro, Erik R. Peterson, Jennifer L. Bovair, CSIS

The global energy system is changing. New demand centers are emerging, and there are numerous challenges to expanding the transportation fuels infrastructure. It has become clear that without significant changes in policy or the introduction of new technologies, the world will continue on an unsustainable path with respect to how it produces, delivers, and uses its energy resources. The confluence of heightened concerns over U.S. energy security, volatile swings in the price of oil, and awareness of climate change has refocused efforts to reduce petroleum demand, improve efficiency, and spur development of zero or low emissions fuels.

This report presents a side-by-side comparison of fuels and vehicles with the recognition that future technological advances or additional research into unresolved issues, such as the land-use impact of biofuel production, could alter findings and make certain options more or less attractive. The report examines the benefits and challenges of various alternatives, including resource availability, infrastructure needs, capital requirements, timetables for at-scale contributions, and environmental sustainability. Chapter 2 looks at new alternative fuels, from hydrocarbon products to biofuels, and provides an overview of the infrastructure challenge the United States faces when looking to implement any of these new alternatives on a mass scale. Chapter 3 focuses on advances in technologies for light-duty vehicles including high-efficiency internal-combustion engines, flex-fuel vehicles, and hybrid and electric cars. Chapter 4 addresses the challenges in adopting new policies and creating incentives for change.

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