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What is?

June 27, 2008 18:47 by Admin

1. What is biodiesel, anyway?

Biodiesel, the common name for fatty acid alkyl esters, is a biological-based fuel that can substitute petroleum fuels in diesel engines. It can be made from virgin vegetable oil, animal fats, algae, or from recycled oils like those used by restaurants for deep-frying. Biodiesel burns cleaner than fossil fuel diesel and has less carbon monoxide, aromatic hydrocarbons, and particulate matter (soot). It does, however, release more nitrous oxide than regular diesel, a factor in smog. Biodiesel is often called a carbon neutral fuel because while it does release carbon dioxide, it is the same carbon absorbed by the plant (or animal) source from which the fuel came. Fossil fuels, on the other hand, release carbon dioxide that could otherwise remain sequestered below the earth’s surface, out of the atmosphere.

2. And what’s veggie oil?

Diesel engines can also run on straight vegetable oil (SVO), but modifications are most often required. Since vegetable oil has a higher viscosity (is thicker), it needs to be heated before it can flow properly. A veggie oil conversion is a system that, in one of several ways, heats the vegetable oil to the appropriate temperature before burning it in the engine.

3. What is a plug-in hybrid?

A plug-in hybrid (PHEV) resembles a typical hybrid car but has additional battery capacity that allows it to travel significant distances on electric power alone. A PHEV functions like an electric vehicle for local driving, but has a gasoline motor which can kick in if the car’s charge is depleated. Plug-ins can get 100 miles per gallon or more but, unlike EVs, can always be refueled with gasoline if need be. Currently, no car manufacturer sells a plug-in hybrid, but several companies are developing the technology and retrofit kits are available on the market for the Toyota Prius and the Ford Escape hybrids. A number of advocacy groups like CalCars and Plug-in America are also pushing hard to see plug-ins on the road.