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Tue, 10/09/2019
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The different types of alternatively fuelled vehicles

It is well documented today that the use of fossil fuels is causing serious damage to our climate. The fact that our vehicles rely on this type of fuel to function has meant that a lot of pressure has been heaped onto the car manufacturing industry in an attempt to curb the amount of pollutants being produced by burning fossil fuels.

As technology has developed, the most modern versions of vehicles being produced are relatively eco-friendlier. But with climate change quickly becoming a primary concern for governments across the world, there has been a significant acceleration in the integration of technology to further decrease the CO2 emissions produced by petrol and diesel vehicles. This has led to the wider introduction of a variety of alternatively fuelled vehicles. But what are these different types of vehicles, and can you use them on the road? This article explores these questions and how the future of motoring is changing.

The most popular alternatively fuelled vehicle – electric

As the name suggests, alternatively fuelled vehicles are those which run on substances other than typical fossil fuels, such as petrol or diesel. In light of the pollutants that are produced from a traditional combustion engine that relies on either of these fuels, organisations turned to researching whether there are any sustainable and more reliable alternatives. And the most prominent alternative is of course electric.

Today, we have seen electric cars beginning to be integrated across the nation, with more motorists opting for electricity as their preferred fuel source. Typically, electric cars come in two forms:

The Hybrid Electric Vehicle: These vehicles are fuelled by both a conventional combustion engine and an electric battery. The engine is fuelled by fossil fuels, whereas the battery can be fuelled in two ways: through the excess energy from the engine, or if it’s a plug-in hybrid, a mains energy source. Most hybrids can run on either fuel source at any one time, or a combination of the two.

The Battery Electric Vehicle: Different to hybrids, battery electric vehicles are powered entirely by the battery and therefore have no combustion engine. They are charged by plugging your vehicle into the mains electricity.

As battery only vehicles do not rely on fossil fuels, they do not emit any CO2, and are therefore widely seen as the future of sustainable travel.

The drawbacks of electric vehicles

  • You must ensure that the electricity produced to fuel your vehicle must is generated sustainably in order for next emissions to be zero

  • There is a huge infrastructural challenge for governments to ensure that charging ports are readily available

  • There are limitations in terms of the distance an electric vehicle can travel

  • Charging your vehicle with the current technology does usually take a couple of hours

These obstacles must be overcome before we see electric vehicles completely integrated, which means there is still room and a need for other alternatively fuelled vehicles to be explored and developed.

Other alternatively fuelled vehicles

With the current limitations to electric vehicles, and the pollution caused by traditional combustion engines, we have seen the development of other alternatively fuelled vehicles that could potentially take their place. Here are three primary examples:

      Hydrogen Fuelled Vehicles: Rather than using a battery, this engine type uses hydrogen fuel cells to power the electric car. In its simplest form, these cells are fed oxygen and hydrogen, with the only two by-products being electricity and water. This means hydrogen fuelled vehicles do not emit any CO2. However, there are questions around sustainability with the gathering of natural gas which emits CO2 throughout this process.

·       Solar Powered Vehicles: The other alternative to fuelling electric vehicles is by taking advantage of solar energy. With specialised solar panels as part of the exterior of these vehicles, they can continually recharge when outside, whether they are being driven or not. There are, however, questions about how effective this may be in less sunnier countries.  Most solar powered vehicles are hybrids in the sense that they also come with the ability to be plugged into a mains supply for charging.

·       Bio-Fuelled Vehicles: This is a particularly interesting approach to alternatively fuelled vehicles. There are some vehicles that run on either type of biofuels. More commonly they still require fossil fuels but mix bioethanol with petrol or biodiesel with diesel. Although this mixture does not reduce overall CO2 emitted, the CO2 would have been absorbed by the various plants that make up the biofuels and so the overall net emissions of the CO2 cycle is lower.

So it’s clear that there are a variety of alternatives to vehicles that solely rely on fossil fuels. Although these types of vehicle are much rarer, you can still purchase one or two models that are sanctioned to run on UK roads.

Are insurance premiums for these vehicles more expensive?

One of the most important questions for those considering purchasing an alternatively fuelled vehicle is how much will the insurance premium cost? As typical battery powered and hybrid electric cars are much more common, we have already written about the top tips for finding the best price for your electric car insurance premium.

For those other alternatively fuelled vehicles, as long as they are legally allowed to drive on British roads, there are a number of risk factors that will influence your premium.  Whether you opt for a fossil fuelled vehicle, or you decide on an eco-friendlier approach, the same risk factors apply to how your insurance premium is calculated.

 These are generally split into two groups: the vehicle and the driver.

The vehicle

  • The Make, model, age of the vehicle and engine size
  • Are there any modifications to the vehicle?
  • Where is the vehicle kept overnight?

The driver

  • How old is the driver?
  • Do you have any convictions?
  • Are you the registered owner and keeper of the vehicle?
  • Do you have any no claims bonus?

The best way to find the right insurance for you is to shop around, and the Be Wiser website is a fantastic place to start to find the perfect insurance for you.