Which comes first, the alf-fuel or the alt-fuel car?

Many automakers know how to make a hydrogen car now, and some of those vehicles are pretty darn advanced. But where can you fill 'em up? Similarly, California's Gov. Schwarzenegger is dealing with a controversy surrounding a two-year-old E85-ready state vehicle fleet that hasn't tasted any ethanol. A new analysis done by MIT about potential consumer purchases of alternative fuel vehicles find that these types of problem are connected to a "feedback loop."

Basically, the study looks at the Catch-22 of buying a hydrogen-, biofuel-, or other alternative-powered cars. The results are not good:

Imagine a vehicle that runs on hydrogen or biofuels and offers the same features, performance and price as today's gasoline vehicle. Will it capture half the market? Not likely, concludes a new MIT analysis. Not even if it's three times more fuel-efficient.

That's from the write-up at REA. It's not only that the alternate-fuel vehicles need to be ready for sale, but fuel suppliers need to be convinced to make that alternative fuel available. The study does find that policy incentives, held in place long enough, will make alternative forms of energy more readily available, but it's not going to be easy to replace the ICE. It's not like we needed MIT to tell us that, but the researchers "developed a system dynamics model that simulates how markets for AF vehicles may (or may not) grow. The model can track the fate of various vehicle platforms, including conventional and advanced ICEs, hybrids and plug-in hybrids, hydrogen fuel cells and biofuels. Decisions made by consumers, fuel suppliers and auto manufacturers change the market, consumer opinion, vehicle attributes and other factors, which then feed back to alter the decisions people make tomorrow." If that sounds like your type of study, the full article is here.

[Source: Renewable Energy Access / Nancy Stauffer, originally published by the MIT Energy Initiative]

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