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A Call For More Alternative Fuel Vehicles In The US

Gasoline prices have fallen. Hence, automakers have to entertain alternative fuel vehicles to provide more options to consumers. This is especially true to automakers that are relying greatly on non-gasoline vehicles.

General Motors Corp. Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner said, "With the price of oil at its lowest level in 19 months, we run the risk of reverting back to our traditional energy policy. That is, relying heavily on the lowest-cost energy available on world markets, including imported oil, without providing adequate support for developing alternative sources.” He also added, “I hope oil prices stay low, but I also hope that our nation stays committed to energy security through energy diversity." The statement of Wagoner came after the revelation of the University of Michigan study that focused on auto executives’ and other experts’ comments on gasoline prices and government fuel economy standards.

At the annual automotive event, an auto supplier executive called for imposing a steep tax on gasoline to help fund the transition to alternative energy sources, especially hydrogen. Alternative fuel, also called alternate fuel, is any substance or material that can be used as fuel other than fossil fuels and other conventional fuels. It also pertains to renewable source of energy.

The essence of alternative fuel is to store energy in a stable form that can be easily transported from the place of production to the end user. The latter is then able to consume the fuel at will. The demand for alternative fuels is triggered by ecological concerns. In 2000, about 8 million vehicles ran on this type of fuel.

Alternative fuels include biodiesel, ethanol, butanol, chemically stored electricity like batteries and fuel cells, hydrogen, methane, vegetable oil, biomass, natural gas, wood and peanut oil. Types of alternative fuels include gasoline type biofuels like butanol, E85 with 85 per cent ethanol and 15 per cent gasoline blend, P-series fuels and hydrogen internal combustion. To boost the performance of the engine, car systems are modified. Toyota parts and accessories are modified to complement the fuel used by the vehicles. Volvo tie rods and other car parts are also engineered to specifically entertain the new technology.

At the North American International Auto Show, GM is showing off a concept plug-in hybrid named the Volt. It can travel 40 miles on battery power alone. In its totality, Volt offers a bold and quality statement. Chevrolet wants to prove that beauty and efficiency combined in one car.

Detroit’s Big 3 have been urging the Bush administration to help their efforts in developing alternative fuels like biodiesel and E85, an ethanol-based fuel. The Big 3 also seek aid in the production of batteries to power vehicles. It can be recalled that the top executives of the Big 3 met with Bush in November last year to discuss alternative energy plans however; they got no promises from the president.

Meanwhile, the Bush administration sought authority to raise fuel economy requirements for passenger cars. This was opposed by the Big 3. "One of the things that government has to do to really promote energy diversity is proactively support the development of alternative fuel technology," Wagoner said. "And incentivize consumers through tax credits, fuel subsidies and so on to adopt these exciting new technologies."

According to a recent survey conducted by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, respondents predicted that fuel prices and fuel economy standards will rise substantially in coming years. It was also anticipated that gas prices will average slightly more than a gallon by 2015 and just over a gallon by 2020. Respondents are composed of automakers, suppliers and other experts.

The study also found that Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards for cars are expected to amplify to 33 mpg in 2015 and 38 mpg in 2020 which is a 38 per cent jump from today's 27.5 mpg standard. For trucks, CAFE standards are predicted to rise to 27 mpg in 2015 and 31 mpg in 2020, a 44 per cent increase from 21.6 mpg today. "Our research reveals surprising agreement among all stakeholders in the automobile industry that fuel prices are on a steep upward trajectory," said U-M researcher Bruce Belzowski.

"If we're ever going to get there, we better start. That much I agree with," said Don Altermatt, senior manager of diesel engineering for DaimlerChrysler AG regarding the proposal to boost alternative fuel sources. "Is there a need for a national energy policy? Absolutely," added Nancy Gioia, director of sustainable mobility technologies and hybrid vehicle programs at Ford. "We have not got the kind of collaboration yet that we need."

About the Author: Glady Reign is a 32 year old is a consultant for an automotive firm based in Detroit, Mi. she is a native of the Motor City and grew up around cars hence her expertise in the automotive field.

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