Alternative fuels are fuels or power sources used to substitute fossil fuels in transport, which can help to decarbonise the sector, including electricity, ammonia and hydrogen:
- Electricity for cars comes from different sources: power stations burning fossil fuels, renewable energy sources and nuclear power plants. Electric vehicles emit no pollutants, while hybrid configurations require less oil and reduce CO2 emissions.
- Ammonia can contribute to a substantial reduction in overall CO2 emissions as ammonia’s only by-products are water and nitrogen.
- Hydrogen, often used for heavy-duty road vehicles and still in its early stages, is extracted from water or organic compounds. The environmental impact and energy efficiency of hydrogen depend on how it is produced, which means whether it was produced using renewable sources such as solar, wind or biogas or by using fossil fuels.
In contrast, renewable fuels include biomass fuels and biofuels, synthetic and paraffinic fuels, including ammonia (mentioned earlier), produced from renewable energy.
- Biofuels are biodegradable fuels manufactured domestically from vegetable oils, animal fats, or recycled restaurant grease. They are currently one of the most important types of alternative fuels, accounting for 4.4% of fuel consumption in EU transport.
They can contribute to a substantial reduction in overall CO2 emissions if they are produced sustainably. However, there is a risk that they will use land that would otherwise have been used for other purposes, such as for the production of food or crops.
Low-carbon fuels based on natural gas
There are other fuels that could help reduce emissions on the way to achieving zero emissions from transport, including:
- Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) is derived from crude oil and natural gas and, in the future, also from biomass. It emits 35% less CO2 than coal, 12% less CO2 than oil and almost no dangerous fine air particles. There is a well-established infrastructure for automotive LPG, also known as autogas, in some countries, but as standards become stricter, LPG will not be able to provide the steep reductions in emissions that are needed.
- Compressed natural gas (CNG) is produced by compressing natural gas, usually methane.
- Liquefied natural gas (LNG) is produced by purifying natural gas, usually methane, and super-cooling it to turn it into a liquid. It does not have a significant potential to reduce emissions, so MEPs do not support its use in road transport.
- Synthetic and paraffinic fuels are made by using biomass or natural gas, as well as vegetable oils or animal fats.