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New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services

Alternative Fuels and Vehicles

The term "alternative fuel," as defined by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Energy Policy Act of 1992, refers to biodiesel, electricity, ethanol, hydrogen, natural gas, propane and new fuels still under development, designated as emerging fuels. “Advanced technology vehicles" use new engine, power and drivetrain systems together to significantly improve fuel economy.

Chart of US average retail fuel prices

Biodiesel is a cleaner burning, domestic, renewable fuel processed from vegetable oils such as soybean or canola oil, from animal fats, or from used restaurant grease. Biodiesel contains no petroleum but is typically blended with petroleum diesel to create a biodiesel blend. Biodiesel blends are used in compression-ignition (diesel) engines; at blends of 20 percent (B20) or lower, vehicle modification is usually not required. The fuel is simple to use, biodegradable, nontoxic, essentially free of sulfur and aromatics and can provide substantial reduction in harmful emissions when compared to regular diesel.  Biodiesel is available at several area filling stations in B5 blend (biodiesel 5 percent, petroleum diesel 95 percent) and B10 blend (biodiesel 10 percent, petroleum diesel 90 percent).

Electric vehicles [ ] (EVs) use an electric motor powered by a battery that is charged by plugging into the electric grid. Electric vehicle owners plug in at home, at the workplace or at one of the many charging stations located in New Hampshire and throughout the United States. The time needed to charge a vehicle depends on vehicle model and voltage of the power source. Vehicles powered by electricity produce no tailpipe emissions. Even when the emissions from electricity generation are factored in, emissions are far lower than a gasoline or diesel powered vehicle. Technological advances are underway that will increase vehicle distance range. 

Hybrid-electric vehicles use a combination of an electric motor and a gasoline engine, resulting in longer distance range than an EV and higher fuel economy than a conventional vehicle. Hybrid-electric vehicles do not plug into the power grid but rely on the engine and a process called regenerative braking to charge the batteries for the electric motor.

Plug-in hybrid cars use the power grid (plugged-in) as well as regenerative braking to charge the batteries, increasing the number of miles driven on electricity. Their larger batteries can provide enough electricity to power the vehicle about 40 miles without using the internal combustion engine. When the battery is depleted, and in situations of high power needs, the internal combustion engine engages.

Ethanol is a high octane renewable fuel made from biomass, primarily corn. Although 10 percent ethanol is present in most of the gasoline sold in the U.S., ethanol can also be used in blends up to 85 percent (E85) in “flex-fuel” vehicles. In model year 2014, sixteen auto manufacturers offer ninety different models of flex-fuel vehicles, including popular models like the Ford Explorer and Chevrolet Impala. Currently, there are no stations in New Hampshire that sell ethanol blends above 10 percent.

Natural Gas is about 90 percent domestically produced and is a cleaner-burning transportation fuel. To maximize vehicle range, the gas is compressed to 3,600 pounds per square inch (psi) in cylinders on the vehicle; the more fuel stored, the more miles on a full tank. Compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles’ fuel economy is similar to that of gas or diesel vehicles. Compared to the average gasoline vehicle on the road today, natural gas vehicles emit 20-45 percent less smog-producing pollutants, 5-9 percent less greenhouse gas emissions, and costs about $1.50 less per gasoline gallon equivalent. 1

Propane (also known as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) or autogas) is a cleaner, high energy domestically produced fuel that can be used to power vehicles. Propane is stored under pressure (150-200 psi) in liquid form until the pressure is released. Propane vehicles have been operating in the U.S. for decades. Propane typically costs less than gasoline and can produce lower amounts of greenhouse gas and some harmful air pollutants.

Hydrogen has long been considered the fuel of the future, and has the potential to become the nation’s #1 choice for clean, emissions-free driving. Hydrogen can either be burned as a fuel source to power a vehicle, or used to create electricity. Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are electric vehicles that use hydrogen to generate the electricity that runs the electric motor. There are no hydrogen-powered light duty vehicles on the market at this time.

Visit the Granite State Clean Cities Coalition webpage [ ] and Alternative Fuels Data Center website for information on alternative fuels, advanced technology vehicles and other petroleum reduction strategies. For a list of currently available alternative fuel vehicles, see

1 Alternative Fuel Price Report, April 2014, retrieved August 11, 2014, from

NH Department of Environmental Services | 29 Hazen Drive | PO Box 95 | Concord, NH 03302-0095
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