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- (NSC) Section 3: Alternatively Fueled Vehicles -

Today's teenagers are among the first generation that will have real choices about the kinds of fuel used in new cars. Domestic and import automakers have been developing a range of alternative-fuel vehicles, and those are expected to be available in showrooms over the coming years. By 1999, in California at least 500,000 clean-fuel cars will be available for sale each year.

In addition, some companies and governments with fleets of cars are required to buy the new cleaner cars. The 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments (CAAA) require gasoline refiners to reformulate gasoline sold in the smoggiest areas. Reformulated gasoline reduces emissions of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and contains less benzene than conventional gasoline. Some areas are required to provide oxyfuel (gas with more oxygen added decreases fuel economy) to burn more efficiently and reduce carbon monoxide. All fuels are required to contain detergents to reduce pollutants. The CAAA also encourages the development of alternative fuels, such as alcohols, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), and natural gas, and requires automakers to build some cars that use cleaner fuels.

1. Electric Vehicles

Hybrid vehicles — those using a combination of electricity and gasoline, depending on the specific driving conditions at the moment — and all-electric vehicles (EVs) are becoming increasingly practical, and costs are expected to decrease over time as they become more widely available. Driving distance, acceleration, and recharging times are all key to increased acceptance of EVs. With some 40 percent of car trips in the United States less than five miles in distance — and with only 8 percent of the trips involving distances of more than 25 miles — EVs in coming years may prove an increasingly viable option for many drivers.p

EV benefits include the following:

At least 1 million EVs could be supported without the addition of any new power plants. EVs need no tune-ups, oil changes, mufflers, or carburetors. They emit no exhaust fumes and do not use any motor oil or gasoline. EVs would save the consumer money, reduce pollution control costs for the community, and reduce health effects from air pollution. The world market for EVs is estimated to reach $30 billion by 2010 and to create 70,000 jobs.

The following are some potential pros and cons for EVs:


An EV can get 126 MPG (when converted from miles per kilowatt); a gas-fueled vehicle can get 35.7 MPG. EVs cost three to five cents less per mile to fuel than a combustion-engine car. EVs do not lack power — some can reach speeds in excess of 183 mph. EVs need no tune-ups, oil changes, mufflers, or carburetors. EVs will significantly reduce pollution control costs all over the country. EVs emit no exhaust fumes and do not use gas or oil. Only 8 percent of trips are more than 25 miles and 40 percent are less than 5 miles, all easily within the range of modern EVs. The annual costs of oil imports are expected to rise from $70 billion in 1995 to $200 billion by 2010. EVs can help reduce the U.S. dependency on foreign oil. As demand increases, more jobs will become available in this industry.


EVs are not common yet and may be harder to find. Mechanics who work on EVs may be even hard to find. As EVs become popular and common, their sale may negatively affect the traditional automotive industry. The batteries are expensive and difficult to recycle. EV owners will be asked to recharge at night when power usage is at its lowest. EVs are still relatively expensive. Driving distance can be short. When EVs in the United States exceed 1 million, new electric power plants may be needed. When completely drained of power, the average EV takes six hours to fully recharge using a 220-volt source.

The above information was provided by the National Safety Council. More informaiton on the NSC can be found at

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