Greener Future with Alternative Car Fuels

By Justina Tran

There’s no doubt that inflated gas prices have had a noticeable impact on our wallets, but the cost of refining and burning fossil fuels goes much further than our pocketbooks. Excess carbon emissions are a major detriment to our environment. Our indulgent fossil fuel usage has caused a buildup of greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide and methane, in the atmosphere, which has resulted in the disruption of ecosystems and the endangerment of innumerable forms of life. At the rate of our current fossil fuel consumption, future generations are at risk of living in a world plagued by severe, unpredictable weather patterns and the continued destruction of habitats.

So what kind of alternatives do we have to fuel our vehicles, without creating additional problems for our environment? Cars are seemingly our first pick for transportation, but gasoline is no longer the only source of available power. Innovations within the past decade have proven that there are now a number of options for those of us who don’t want to get from point A to point B at Mother Earth’s expense.

Shocking Savings with Electric Fuel

charging battery of an electric carDid you know that the total cost to fully charge an electric car is a mere $2 to $4? The average cost of one gallon of gas in America is currently $3.56, and it continues to rise! One single charge from conventional family-sized cars can last approximately 100 miles, although actual mileage per charge may vary depending on the size of the battery. For most drivers, 100 miles is more than enough to last a day. The length of time it takes to complete a charge, from 30 minutes to 14 hours, also differs according to the size of the battery. Average electric vehicle prices range from $20,000-35,000, with makes and models for every budget.

Gasoline’s Friendlier Cousin

Photo source: gigaom

Photo source: gigaom

We use natural gas in our daily lives to heat our stoves and warm our houses, but natural gas is also a clean alternative for fueling natural gas vehicles, or NGVs. Besides helping America free itself from dependence on foreign oil, natural gas is safer and cheaper than liquid gas. In a car accident, natural gas dissipates into the air. On the other hand, gasoline’s flammability makes it relatively less safe. Natural gas also has the benefit of being significantly easier on the wallet; fueling up with natural gas saves $1.50 to $2 less per gasoline gallon equivalent.

Leave No Footprints with Hydrogen

Hydrogen car conceptThe biggest issue with fossil fuels is the monstrous carbon trail that’s left behind after it’s burned. But what if dangerous car emissions became a thing of the past? With the introduction of hydrogen-powered vehicles onto the roads, what was once an ambitious concept is now a reality. Automakers like Hyundai, Honda, and Toyota have all made announcements to introduce hydrogen-powered cars to the U.S. by 2015, or earlier. In California, hydrogen-powered cars hit the market in June, in response to California legislators who are pushing car companies to produce cars with a smaller impact on the environment. With water vapor as the only chemical byproduct, the recent push for cleaner sources of car fuel may make hydrogen-powered cars the biggest threat to fossil fuel companies, and our safest bet for a greener Earth.

Now that you’ve read about some alternatives, how do you think you can modify your transportation habits?

The Coolest of the Cool (jobs, that is)

We talk a bit about our Cool Jobs campaign that we launched on our websites last fall. While we completely encourage everyone to take an hour, a day, a month to peruse all of these wonderful interviews, we thought that we would take a second to highlight a few of these wonderful professionals. All of these men and women offered incredible wisdom about how they landed their careers and how students might follow in their footsteps. But some of them offered really wonderful life stories and incredible insights into the struggles they faced or the dedication required of them…

And don’t forget that our STEM Works websites offers four different versions of these interviews containing questions aimed specifically for different age groups: Elementary, Middle School, High School, and Undergraduate. So if you really love one of these articles and want to show it to your students, group, or children, be sure to find the version that is best suited for them!

The Animal Kingdom IconAnimal Kingdom

Katrina McCauley always knew she wanted to work with animals, but the journey to becoming a Zookeeper wasn’t easy. McCauley, armed with the educational background and ability to promote herself, broke into zookeeping and has been building her relationship with Colo, the oldest gorilla in a zoo, ever since. Read more to learn how McCauley spends her days as a Zookeeper at the Columbus Zoo! Read article.

Extreme Weather IconExtreme Weather

Lightning struck when Dr. Josh Wurman landed on the Discovery Channel’s reality series Storm Chasers and the IMAX film Forces of Nature.  Dr. Wurman was joined by his colleague Dr. Karen Kosiba to discuss what life is really like as a meteorologist and tornado chaser. A fun fact about this interview is that it was literally conducted while these two storm chasers were en route to a site in their meteorology van.  Read article.

Medical Innovations IconMedical Innovations

After a chance introduction to the field of public health, Allison Brown caught the bug! She passed up medical school to become an epidemiologist and now travels the world for the CDC to solve some of the world’s biggest public health problems. Read on to see why Allison’s interests are contagious! Read article.

Robotics IconRobotics

Robots are not just a thing of science-fiction.  Robots are in places you might not expect, whether they are helping people around the house or traveling to Mars.  We caught up with Dr. Chris Jones, former Director of Research Advancement with iRobot to discuss the power of mentorship, the emerging market for robotics, and even “soft” robots!  Read article.

Space IconSpace

We couldn’t conduct an interview related to space without first going to world-renowned NASA! Luckily, we were able to speak with Carlie Zumwalt, who is one of NASA’s Flight Dynamics Engineers. So what was this girl who works for such a high-profile organization like? She was surprisingly humble, incredibly candid, and wonderfully addicted to hard work. Her article is definitely a must read. Read article.

Under the Sea IconUnder the Sea

Shannon Johnson, Deep-Sea Research Technician with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), described her job as like watching the Discovery Channel in real time. Shannon explores the oceans through the use of ROV’s, or Remote Operated Vehicles, and gets to discover new things about the ocean every day. Oh, and not to mention that her office is in one of the most beautiful coastal areas on the West coast… Read article.

Video Games IconVideo Games

Kelly Murphy, a Video Game Designer for Walt Disney, spends his time balancing tight deadlines for game releases while ensuring Disney games are exciting to play and keep gamers’ coming back for more. Read more to learn what makes a Video Game Designer such a cool jobs here.

Wind Energy IconWind Energy

At first glance this job might not seem very wind related… but it’s more wind related than you might think. After entering a Ph. D. program in aerospace engineering, the current of Jonathan Colby’s career swept him away from aerospace and toward renewable energy. Jonathan now works to turn the flow of New York’s East River into clean, renewable power. Read on to learn how blue water turns into green energy. Read article.

BeakerOther STEM Subjects

Because we are very aware that the wonderful world of STEM includes far more than the subjects above, we feature didn’t limit our interviews to these subjects alone. One of the professionals featured in this section is green chemist Dr. John Warner. Many products in our world today are made with toxic materials. Now, picture a world without toxins – no pollution, no hazardous materials, and no harmful products. Green Chemists, like John Warner PhD, are working to make this dream a reality. Learn what makes Dr. Warner’s work not only important to us, but critical for generations to come. Read article.