The most commonly used fuel, petrol and diesel, release a great amount of CO2 and it is therefore of great importance to find and develop new sources of energy that are more environmentally friendly. For many years now the development of more efficient diesel and petrol cars, hybrids (electric- and petrol fueled cars), methane cars, hydrogen cars and electric cars has been underway. In recent years a race has begun for the next generation of buyers; a generation that will demand ever more efficient, economic and less environmentally harmful cars.

Changing the usage of fuel from one type to another

Changing the type of fuel being used in transport is no easy matter, and apart from the production and distribution of the energy, the fuel has to be adjusted to the motors being used today. It is best if a new source of energy can be adapted completely to older types of vehicles, here ethanol and biodiesel can be mentioned. It is a worse option if older vehicles have to be changed to a large extent. Thus it can be mentioned that the use of methane demands large gas containers which are costly and which diminish the functionality of the car. The methane is easier to use for newer cars because then the car as a whole can be designed with the gas containers in mind. The worst option is when a new energy option is introduced requiering new motors. Here both hydrogen and electricity can be mentioned. Such large changes cannot be carried out except over tens of years and only if the new energy and the new motors are very much cheaper than the energy that preceeded them.

Biodisel is the organic environmentally friendly fuel which has the greatest possibility of becoming reality today. Biodiesel is made from vegetable oil or from animal fat but the greatest hope lies in the production of biodiesel from algae. Experimental projects have been carried out on behalf of Siglingastofnunar by cultivating rape in order to produce biodiesel in this country but N1 started importing Biodiesel in 2007 and sells it in three service stations at Hringbraut, Skógarsel and at Reykjavíkurvegur. The advantage of using biodiesel is that it can be used on any diesel car whatsoever. However practical problems have hindered further development but they are being solved as they arise.

Ethanol is being produced by fermenting biomass. Bioethanol E85 is available at the Olís fuel station at Álfheimar. Brimborg has marketed ethanol cars in Iceland. Ethanol has been fermented from sugar cane or from corn but there are intensive experimental projects going on related to producing ethanol from cellulose.

Methane is a renewable source of energy formed by the decay of organic material. It is hoped that the use of methane as a car fuel will increase in the future as it can be considered environmentally friendly in two ways. Firstly it’s burning releases no CO2 and secondly it consumes methane which is an especially harmful greenhouse gas. It is therefore much better to use the gas to fuel cars instead of using petrol or oil.
Metan Ltd. Is a company that has for a few years now produced methane gas but there is still only one refueling station in the country which does not really motivate people to buy methane cars. There are, on the other hand, hopes that this will change in the coming years as the supply of methane cars is increasing considerably. It is worthwhile to note what methane cars are available as dealerships are fast becoming green. Only a short time ago it was almost impossible to get any dealerships to sell methane cars so the development is certainly going in the right direction.
It is possible to convert normal cars into methane cars and Borgarholtsskóli started teaching that kind of conversion in 2007. Vélamiðstöðin ehf., MeGas ehf. and Einn grænn ehf. offer the onversion of normal cars into methane cars today and the number of cars using methane as fuel is rapidly increasing.
Methane cars are usually hybrids, with one tank for methane and another smaller one for petrol. That way it is possible to drive long distances and use petrol to some extent where there is no methane available (the gas tank tough, can be as small as 15 liters).

Hydrogen has relatively insignificant environmental effects as long as the energy to produce it is derived from water, wind or solar power, unless of course the plants environmental impact is significant (i.e Kárahnjúkavirkjun). The problem tough, with hydrogen cars is that their development is still under way and its results are still unsure, and it is also unsure when it will be possible to produce enough hydrogen cars to make a difference. Iceland can safely be called a hydrogen country as it has invested substantially in projects connected to the development and promotion of the hydrogen idea.
Íslensk NýOrka is a front-liner in Icelandic hydrogen research. Hydrogen cars have still a long way to go to become a real choice for the average consumer and furthermore hydrogen is not considered by all to be any solution as it is not really energy in itself but rather a carrier of energy. A few such cars are now in Iceland in connection with various projects and the car-rental agency Hertz will for instance be able to rent out hydrogen cars within a short while, which is a significant step as this will be the first time in the world the public gains access to hydrogen cars. The operations of the cars have though been troublesome for various reasons. One of the reasons is that there is only one refuelling station for hydrogen at Ártúnshöfði in Reykjavík.

EVEN/Northern Lights Energy
now works hard on introducing electric cars into Iceland, but electric cars are by many considered to be the most feasible solution for the long term future, not in the least for Iceland where electricity can be produced in a more environmentally friendly manner, than in many other places in the world. Possibly the electric car is the dream solution, - only if we were not facing again those practical problems. Rare Earth metals are used for the motors, and the control system of the electricity. It has to be taken into account that producting those metals is a highly polluting business. Most hopes are placed on Li-ion batteries which are capable of storing large amounts of energy compared with weight. But how much Lithium is available on Earth or in the Solar System for that matter? Will there be enought Lithium for the car-fleet of the world? For Iceland it would be awesome to drive pollution-free and silently on electric cars, but then the highly polluting production process is maybe forgotten, because we will never notice it. There is no rose without thorns.

Traditional cars
If the choice is between a diesel- or a gasoline car, it is ampt to keep in mind that a diesel car spends around 25% less fuel than a comparable gasoline car. However around 16% more carbon dioxide is created by burning one liter of diesel oil than gasoline. This means that when choosing between two cars the diesel car has to use 16% less than the gasoline car in order to be comparable to a gasoline car. To this is added that diesel cars produce more aerosol, NOX and PAH´s* than gasoline cars even though diesel car engines are always improving.
The economic aspect of diesel cars is best revealed during long distance driving. It is more difficult for the diesel car to be economical in city and short distance driving. The same goes however for gasoline cars. A cold gasoline engine spends a lot of fuel until it has reached operational temperature. Here we should consider the advantages of an engine heater.  Using an electric engine heather, the motor reaches normal operating temperatures much sooner, polluting less and spending less fuel. Also the car becomes warm and cosy in a few minutes. Not bad on a cold winter morning.

PAH´s are poly-aromatic-hydrocarbons which are known carcinogens.

May 1, 2013
Einar Einarsson, Guðrún Arndís Tryggvadóttir „Orka og eldsneyti“, Náttú May 1, 2013 URL: [Skoðað:May 27, 2019]
Efni má nota eða vitna í samkvæmt almennum venjum sé heimilda getið með slóð eða fullri tilvitnun hér að ofan.
skrifað: June 26, 2007
breytt: June 12, 2014