Weird alternate fuels that could power our vehicles in the future

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#Alternative Fuels
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The supply of petrol and diesel will not last forever. Scientists and engineers are constantly researching new alternate fuels which could potentially be used to power our vehicles. Although the use of electricity is a popular alternative, it requires time for the car battery to recharge which can be an issue for some drivers. 

Elements such as Hydrogen have also been considered as a main fuel source, but it emits harmful by-products into the atmosphere. Should we consider the following alternate fuels to keep our cars moving, on the road and more sustainable?


Not only is it useful for giving you an energy boost in the morning to stop you from falling asleep at your desk, it can also power your car. When used coffee grounds are broken down using heat, hydrogen is then released, which can then be used to power the vehicle. In 2010, the world’s first Coffee powered car was created by heavily modifying a 1988 Volkswagen Scirocco. Once the hydrogen is released it must be put through a system that removes the tar, which eventually winds up powering pistons to move the car forwards. How interesting would it be to pull up to a coffee machine rather than a petrol station?  You could maybe pour yourself a cappuccino at the same time!

Human waste

Faeces and other human waste have also proven to be a source of fuel for vehicles as shown by GENeco, who is a recycling and renewable energy company. In 2014 the Bio-bus was first seen in action as it was operating on the bus route from Bristol Airport to Bath and was powered by human sewage and food waste which was collected from the Bristol Sewage Treatments Works. The waste harnesses a natural process called anaerobic digestion in which organic matter in waste, breaks down to produce methane-rich biogas. This biomethane gas that is produced will then be used to poo-wer the vehicle!  Not sure about this as an alternative fuel – but we certainly wouldn’t be affected by dwindling supplies!


Although algae was deemed to have a future as a source of biofuel for vehicles, it seems that may not be the case anymore because it may not be commercially viable. Algae already has numerous uses, such as nutritional supplements and treating sewage to being used as a colouring agent. There are several ways of extracting the oil-rich lipids from algae, but finding the best possible process for growing algae and extracting the oil lipids for commercial use is still to be discovered. This type of biofuel has the same chemical properties as petroleum-based diesel, meaning that diesel engines will not need to be replaced it this type of biofuel was to be used.

Radioactive material

Radioactive material as a source of fuel hasn’t been put into production yet…on Earth.  However, it is being used to fuel vehicles on other planets and we’re not talking about alien spaceships. Mars rovers, Curiosity and Perseverance were the first of potentially many vehicles that use radioactive material to keep it on the move. They use what is called a Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (good luck pronouncing that correctly first time) which is a nuclear battery that converts the heat released from radioactive decay into electricity to power the vehicle.  Really exciting research ahead.  If it’s good enough for NASA, then we can only wait in line and hope one day we will be powering our own little spaceships as the next futuristic form of transport.


Yes, even air can be made into clean fuel which is what a team from the University of Cambridge figured out using a solar-powered reactor to transform CO2 into an inexhaustible energy supply. This method can be developed for use at an industrial scale, allowing factories to take advantage by running their machinery off this clean fuel. Solar-driven technology can capture COfrom either industrial processes, or directly from the air. The captured COis then passed through an alkaline solution, where it is then concentrated to allow for an easier conversion into a syngas fuel using sunlight. They also found out that adding plastic waste to the system enabled the team to create chemicals such as glycolic acid, which is widely used in the cosmetic industry.

If you’re still planning on using diesel to power your vehicle, then let us save you time and money whilst doing it. We stock a wide range of fuel cards so finding the right one for you won’t be hard.

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Matt Dodds
Head of Strategic Sales and Partnerships

With over 14 years of experience across two of the leading fuel card companies in the UK, Matt Dodds joined RFC Edenred to help lead the development of products to support our customer's move to EV and other alternative fuels, a transition he feels passionately about.