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With growing concerns about the environmental impacts of using gasoline and diesel — including the automotive industry’s carbon dioxide emissions, massive petroleum leaks and destructive mining practices — many drivers, companies and scientists are looking for alternative energy sources to power their personal cars and automotive fleets.

Some of the most common alternative sources include electricity and biodiesel, but when it comes to powering cars, which one has more promise? The notable rise in demand and popularity of electric vehicles makes electric and battery-powered cars a clear contender, but there are plenty of other energy sources still out there to research and develop. From the most well-known alternative sources, like electricity, to some that perhaps you’ve never even considered, like coffee grounds and feces, we put together a list of both reliable and intriguing possible energy sources being implemented or studied to power our future on the road.

Find out which of these sources are the most promising by checking out where they land on our Green Scale. Whether you’re considering buying an alternatively powered car or want to decrease your carbon footprint by renting a hybrid for your next road trip, this will give you an idea of what’s already out there and what’s coming further down the pipeline in terms of green or alternative automotive energy.

Which Alternative Energy Sources Have Greater Promise?

Generally, wind, solar and biomass seem to have the most promise as alternative energy, but when it comes to cars, the cost of manufacturing and infrastructure will have a huge impact on the energy sources we adopt.

To give us a general idea of which of these sources we’re most likely to see or use the most in the near future, we rated each one on a 1–5 Green Scale based on the following criteria:

  • Comparable cost to gasoline or affordability of the car model based on the average car loan in 2019 ($30,977)
  • Renewability and/or sustainability of the energy source
  • Available technology in place to produce and infrastructure to deliver
  • Exhaust and production emissions

As a benchmark, we used the national gas and driving averages below:

gasoline benchmarks.

Although many factors will contribute to the mass production and public adoption of these sources, this Green Scale will help the average consumer better understand which option offers the most promise.

CarRentals green meter scale.

The list below breaks down how these sources generate energy, possible costs as well as their pros and cons to help us get an idea of which alternative fuels are most likely to power our cars in the years or decades to come.

Can Gasoline Turn Into a Thing of the Past?

Although the environmental implications of relying on gasoline are clear, experts agree that becoming entirely independent of oil is still a pipe dream. Not only does everything from passenger vehicles to lawnmowers rely on gasoline, but our dependence on oil is quite easy to maintain. With gas stations on every corner, a large and well-established market of gas-powered vehicles at our disposal, and relatively affordable gas prices, it’s easy to see why cutting dependence on a national scale isn’t on the horizon — at least anytime soon.

alternative energy sources for cars
alternative energy sources for cars

Even when we know gasoline is here to stay, at least during our lifetime, this list still shows a bright future ahead for cleaner driving and transportation. Perhaps one day we’ll get to see the first affordable car powered by chocolate waste — it’s unlikely that many people would be opposed to eating a little extra chocolate to get their engines going. Meanwhile, if you’re looking to buy a more eco-friendly car, rent one first to test it out!

Sources:

How Stuff Works | CHFCA | ALCSE | Born to Engineer | Clean Technica | Futurism | UCSUSA | CAFCP | Transportation Today News | E85 Prices | Anthropocene | New Atlas | CNET | Science Direct | Nerdwallet | The Verge