Green Vehicle Guide
Considering Alternative Fuels?
Vehicles that operate primarily on gasoline or diesel have historically accounted for over 99% of cars and passenger truck sales. However, sales of cars that operate on alternative fuels like ethanol, natural gas, and electricity are growing. Millions of flexible fuel vehicles— vehicles that can run on either E85 (a mixture of about 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline) or gasoline—have been sold in the past decade. Perhaps you are already driving one! New models of both electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles are also entering the market in increasing numbers.
Many alternative fuels "burn" cleaner than gasoline or diesel so there are fewer tailpipe emissions. The amount of greenhouse gases emitted when the fuel is produced depends on the source of the fuel— see GHG Emissions for more information. These fuels can also be produced domestically, reducing our dependence on imported petroleum. Click on the tabs below to learn more about each fuel.
How to Fuel
You can “refuel” at home by plugging the car into a household outlet to recharge the battery. Most EVs can be charged with a standard 120-Volt outlet. A 240-Volt outlet—like the one your dryer or electric stove uses—will charge the vehicle more quickly. Check the window sticker or fueleconomy.gov to find the charge time of the vehicle. You may also be able to plug in at work, or at one of the growing number of public charging stations.
Electric vehicles (EVs) operate exclusively on electricity. Plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) operate on both electricity and gasoline.
How to Fuel
Similar to filling your gasoline tank, you attach the nozzle from a designated hydrogen dispenser at a public station. It should take less than 10 minutes to fill up.
Fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) powered by hydrogen are just starting to enter the vehicle market. There are currently a limited number of FCVs available.
How to Fuel
Similar to refilling your gasoline tank, you attach the nozzle from a designated CNG dispenser at a public station. Most public stations are fast-fill, which can fill your tank in about the same amount of time it takes to refuel a gasoline vehicle.
CNG cars operate in a similar way to gasoline cars. The fuel—natural gas—is burned in an internal combustion engine to power the wheels.
There are currently a limited number of dedicated CNG vehicles available.
How to Fuel
E85 (up to 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline) is a liquid fuel that is dispensed just like gasoline. It is available on specifically labeled pumps at many public stations around the country.
Flexible Fuel Vehicles (FFVs) can operate on E85 or regular gasoline.
There are more than 17 million FFVs in the U.S. today, but many owners don't realize their car is an FFV. Check your fuel door or owner’s manual to see if you’re driving one.
How to Fuel
Biodiesel is dispensed just like gasoline, and is available at many public stations. It can be dispensed as 100% biodiesel or as a blend with petroleum diesel. Common blends include B5 and B20, a blend of 20% biodiesel and 80% diesel.
Most diesel vehicles can run on biodiesel, but check with your vehicle manufacturer or warranty.
*The sources displayed above are not intended to cover all possible feedstocks, or sources, nor do they reflect equal fractions of fuel production.
Many of these fuels, depending on how they are produced, reduce overall emissions of CO2 into the atmosphere. Each one reduces the amount of CO2 emitted directly from the vehicle's tailpipe relative to gasoline or diesel. In fact, operating a vehicle exclusively on electricity or hydrogen produces no harmful tailpipe GHG emissions! The amount of GHGs emitted when the fuel is produced depends on the source of the fuel. For example, generating electricity from coal creates far more emissions than electricity generated from renewable sources like wind. Learn more about emissions associated with electric vehicles .
Want to Know More?
DOE's Alternative Fuels & Advanced Vehicles Data Center provides information on the basics, benefits and considerations, station locators, compatible vehicles, and financial incentives for various fuels.
EPA's Renewable and Alternative Fuels pages provide information on the use of environmentally beneficial alternative fuels and vehicles, including ethanol, biodiesel, and alternative fuel vehicle conversions.
For basic fact sheets on E85 and biodiesel, see:
- E85 and Flex Fuel Vehicles (FFVs) (PDF) (3 pp, 524K, EPA-420-F-10-010a, May 2010, About PDF)
- Biodiesel (PDF) (3 pp, 90K, EPA-420-F-10-009, February 2010, About PDF)
Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS)
EPA is responsible for developing and implementing regulations to ensure that transportation fuel sold in the U.S. contains a minimum volume of renewable fuel. Visit EPA's Renewable Fuels Standard site for more information.