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Alternative Fuels When Buying a Used Car

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 26 Aug 2012 | comments*Discuss
Alternative Fuels When Buying A Used Car

Alternative fuels for motoring are firmly at the top of the government's agenda. The cost of petrol and the environmental impact of driving are two issues that regularly make the news headlines. Whilst petrol remains the most commonly used fuel for motor vehicles there is a steady increase in the number of petrol stations which offer alternative fuels and this rise is set to continue, especially in light of concerns about CO2 omissions and global warming. In fact, it might not be too long before we can ‘refuel’ our car right at home!

Diesels & Biodiesels

Diesel has been around for a long time now and is probably one of the most commonly used alternative fuels after petrol. There is, however, a drive towards increasing the availability of biodiesels which can be used to fuel any diesel engine. Diesel powered vehicles are popular as they have a reputation for durability and reliability.

Biodiesels are usually made up of animal fats or oils or plant extracts. There is a growing market for this kind of fuel although some critics have expressed concern at the possibility of farmers neglecting the food supply chain in favour of producing crops for biodiesels. It is, however, on the increase and comes with a good ‘green’ rating.

Many diesel powered engines can last up to 500,000 miles which makes it a cost effective choice as an alternative fuel vehicle.

Liquefied Propane Gas (LPG)

LPG is becoming increasingly popular and it is one of the cleanest alternative fuels available. Studies have shown that it omits 20% less CO2 emissions over both petrol and diesel and it is cheaper too. It’s also less damaging to your engine. The UK government supports the move towards LPG powered vehicles and offers incentives to switch by reducing the duty paid on it. At present, there are only around 1200 petrol stations offering LPG but that number will surely rise. Although LPG powered cars are still relatively low in number, you can convert any petrol engine with a spark ignition to run on LPG at a cost of around £1500 to £2000 which you would be able to recuperate easily over time in lower running costs.

Natural Gas and Propane

No longer limited to your barbecue kit or to heat your caravan, many cars and trucks now use natural gas and propane too as alternative fuels and this also has a positive effect on increasing the life of your engine.


This fuel also comes from plants. It burns more cleanly and completely than both petrol and diesel and reduces greenhouse gas emissions and because it uses waste materials, it reduces the amount of waste that is dumped in landfill sites which is another positive move for the environment. It can also be used in conjunction with petrol which has seen a steady rise in the number of flex-fuel vehicles (FFVs) that are available. The most common source at present is E85, a bio-ethanol mix which combines a small amount of ethanol (5 to 10%) with petrol. Once again, however, debate continues about the impact an increase in popularity would have on the farming community and where its priorities would lie, in relation to producing fuel over food.


Electric powered vehicles have the capacity to be the greenest and most convenient of all alternative fuels, given that you could charge them up at home. However, unless recharging the battery comes from a renewable energy source, they would still have an impact on issues like climate change and although fuel cells could offer the potential to increase the range and performance of electrically powered vehicles, there is still much research to be done at present.

A common alternative to petrol and diesel is still in its relative infancy at this stage. However, as more companies are investing in alternative fuels then, from both an economic and an environmental standpoint, the trend is only going to increase further.

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