General Question

Adina1968's avatar

If we suddenly switched over to alternative fuel scources such as ethanol what would happen to all the cars on the road today?

Asked by Adina1968 (2737 points ) May 19th, 2008

Would the cars have to be modified or would we all have to buy new cars?

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10 Answers

Magnus's avatar

Landfill, recycled or they’ll set up a huge car cemetery in the nevada dessert just like they did for old military planes. If we ought to replace every engine in every car we could of course just replace the engine, but older cars would have to be replaced completely. I think though that there will always be petrol-cars in forms of sport-cars or old cars in e.g. third world countries. You will never get the same performance form a ethanol-car as a good old petrol-car.

mac316's avatar

At the present time, the supply of ethanol is not sufficient to pose such a question. If availability of fuel was adequate, there would be modifications to the fuel system required in most cars as materials in the seals and such are not compatible with pure ethanol. Those cars designed for such service, E85 or the like, would take up part of the slack. The economy is too geared to petroleum to allow the total replacement of present vehicles, so modifications would surface to allow older cars to adapt.

mcbealer's avatar

I think there’s a chance most cars could be retrofitted with a fuel pump adaptor that could handle E85, our cars are sold in Brazil with the part and run fine there. CNN did a documentary on this, and the part only costs about $150 for most cars.

thecoot's avatar

I think that if we were to switch to an alternate fuel source, the government should pay for the transition costs for the consumer. If they are giving out coupons for the switch to digital television broadcast, then a coupon for a fuel adapter should also be established.

Mtl_zack's avatar

ethanol is not the solution. ethanol comes from corn, and if we use the corn for fuel, there will be none left to eat and world hunger will ensue. what i think should be the next fuel is non-edible starches like hay and biproducts of farmers. that would also have an impact on the genetically modified food market, because there would be no hay to give to the cattle and less grass for grazing. but i think the opportunity cost is worth it.

edmartin101's avatar

We couldn’t rely on single sources for fuels to replace our dependency on foreign oil. There would have to be a combination of sources. There is no way to phase out petroleum all of a sudden, there are too many implications and most of them are political. As of right now, we have the technical expertise to use natural gas, ethanol, hybrid systems with different fuels not just gasoline, electric vehicles, fuel cells, and last but not least Hydrogen vehicles. The reason why we haven’t gone on this road to replace our dependency on black gold is obviously not because we can’t do it, but because our politicians have blocked this chance due to pressure from giant oil companies. It was a shame Bush had to beg the Saudis to increase oil production only to get a miserable increase of 300,000 barrels a day. We really don’t have to go through this mess. There are already established companies producing electric vehicles and alternative fuel source vehicles, we are just not getting government incentives for this technology.

marinelife's avatar

First of all, this is an unlikely hypothetical, in that nothing ever changes over “suddenly.” If it did, some cars would be scrapped probably, and I agree with mcbealer that retrofitting would become big business.

Corn, in my opinion, is better burnt up than eaten (corn syrup is evil), but it is not clear what the best biofuel option might be or that biofuel rather than other technologies will replace gasoline engines.

@thecoot Love your Fluther name!

joewein's avatar

Ethanol from corn is unlikely to become a major source of fuel in the US. To produce as much ethanol from sugars made from corn as have the energy content of 4 gallons of oil you need to invest about 3 gallons of oil (for tractors, fertizer, distilleries, etc.).

Therefore, even if the US had unlimited farmland (which it doesn’t), if all cars in the US were to run on 100% ethanol the US would still have to import oil for farming corn that would be the equivalent of 75% of what cars use today. It’s one of the worst ideas anyone has come up with to reduce fuel imports.

By contrast, ethanol made from sugar cane in tropical climates such as Brazil yield 8 gallons for every gallon invested. The US would be far better off importing more cane alcohol from Brazil while keeping up research on alcohol from cellulose (such as straw) than to pamper the domestic farm lobby.

Cars that are inefficient will price themselves off the road. If a car costs $xxx per month more to run than a more efficient new car, then at a certain age it will get scrapped and melted down for steel, just like all cars eventually are.

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gooch's avatar

Mine gets worse gas milage on ethanol

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