Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Planet Ark : More Alternative Fuel Vehicles Seen in US in 2004

The number of vehicles in the United States that run on alternative fuels is expected to increase 7.3 percent this year from 2003, the government said last week.

A total of 547,904 vehicles that run on natural gas, corn-based ethanol, electricity or liquefied petroleum gases will be on the road this year, up from 510,805 last year, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said.

The agency's numbers do not include hybrid vehicles that are fueled by a combination of electricity and traditional gasoline.

At first glance, this sounds like an optimistic story, but there are problems. As I noted before, natural gas production is expected to be flat, pushing prices higher. Ethanol will never be a comprehensive solution. Some experts claim that it takes more energy to produce it than it contains. Others disagree, but even if all the farmland in the country were devoted to producing ethanol, it would not come close to meeting US energy needs.

Electric cars have floundered on the inability to develop batteries with enough energy to rival gas powered cars. GM not only halted its limited construction of electric cars, it recalled the electric cars it was leasing. The market is left to small companies such as Zap Electric. The future of electric cars is still far distant.


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