Evaluating automobile fuel/propulsion system technologies

Date of Original Version




Abstract or Description

We examine the life cycle implications of a wide range of fuels and propulsion systems that could power cars and light trucks in the US and Canada over the next two to three decades ((1) reformulated gasoline and diesel, (2) compressed natural gas, (3) methanol and ethanol, (4) liquid petroleum gas, (5) liquefied natural gas, (6) Fischer–Tropsch liquids from natural gas, (7) hydrogen, and (8) electricity; (a) spark ignition port injection engines, (b) spark ignition direct injection engines, (c) compression ignition engines, (d) electric motors with battery power, (e) hybrid electric propulsion options, and (f) fuel cells). We review recent studies to evaluate the environmental, performance, and cost characteristics of fuel/propulsion technology combinations that are currently available or will be available in the next few decades. Only options that could power a significant proportion of the personal transportation fleet are investigated.

Contradictions among the goals of customers, manufacturers, and society have led society to assert control through extensive regulation of fuel composition, vehicle emissions, and fuel economy. Changes in social goals, fuel-engine-emissions technologies, fuel availability, and customer desires require a rethinking of current regulations as well as the design of vehicles and fuels that will appeal to consumers over the next decades.




Published In

Progress in Energy and Combustion Science, 29, 1, 1-69.