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Green Vehicle Guide

Alternative Vehicle Fuels

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 (GHG) emitted when the fuel is produced depends on the source of the fuel — see GHG Emission 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.

Electricity can be produced from:

Coal, Natural Gas & Oil, Nuclear, Hydropower, Solar, Wind, Biomass

  • 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 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.

  • Vehicle Info

    Electric vehicles (EVs) operate exclusively on electricity. Plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) operate on both electricity and gasoline.

  • Did You Know?

    You can estimate the GHG emissions associated with charging and driving an EV or PHEV where you live on

Hydrogen can be produced from:

Natural Gas, Water, Coal, Waste, Biomass

Compressed Natural Gas can be produced from:

Natural Gas, Waste

  • 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.

  • Vehicle Info

    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.

  • Did You Know?

    CNG generally creates fewer smog-related tailpipe emissions than gasoline, and can reduce tailpipe GHGs by about 20%. There are also GHG emissions associated with extracting, processing, and distributing CNG. Learn more about GHG emissions.

Ethanol can be produced from:

Cereal Grains, Sugar Crops, Cellulose from Waste/Residues. Cellulose from Energy Crops., Cellulose from Woody Biomass

  • 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.

  • Vehicle Info

    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.

  • Did You Know?

    There are over 2,300 gas stations that carry E85.

Biodiesel can be produced from:

Oilseed Crops, Oil from Waste Greases/Tallow, Oil from Algae

  • 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.

  • Vehicle Info

    Most diesel vehicles can run on biodiesel, but check with your vehicle manufacturer or warranty.

  • Did You Know?

    Biodiesel concentrations of up to 5% (B5) are approved for safe operation in any diesel engine, including passenger cars and trucks and heavy-duty trucks.

*The sources displayed above are not intended to cover all possible feedstocks, or sources, nor do they reflect equal fractions of fuel production.

GHG Emissions

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 Data Center provides information on the basics, benefits and considerations, station locators, compatible vehicles, and financial incentives for various fuels.

Visit Alternative Fuels and E85 for more information about alternative fuels and vehicles.

For basic fact sheets on E85 and biodiesel, see:

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.