Alternative Fuels

Substitutes for Petroleum

Alternative fuels can be substituted for traditional gasoline or diesel fuels. The federal Energy Policy Act of 1992 identifies six such fuels listed below. Alternative fuels may be used either as a replacement for gasoline or in conjunction with it. All alternative fuels can be domestically produced, and most provide significant air quality benefits when used as a vehicle fuel.


Some auto manufacturers developed and marketed electric vehicles (EVs) in the 1990s. EVs were powered solely by batteries that recharged overnight. However, battery technology did not advance sufficiently for continued production of on-road vehicles. Now, EV use is mainly restricted to neighborhood low-speed vehicles.

Hybrid Electric
Some auto manufacturers currently sell electric hybrids. Electric hybrid vehicles use both an internal combustion engine and electric motors. The Toyota Prius and the Honda Insight are examples of an electric hybrid. These vehicles are highly rated by the US Environmental Protection Agency for low emissions and high fuel efficiency compared to non-hybrid equivalents.

Plug-in Hybrid Electric
Plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) technology involves increasing the battery capacity in hybrid vehicles by:

  • Retrofitting them with larger batteries, or
  • Installing a kit that supplements the energy storage capacity of the existing battery.

These batteries can be recharged using standard electrical outlets. PHEVs are 30 percent to 50 percent more fuel efficient than regular hybrids because they can run 20 to 60 miles on electricity alone. When a vehicle depletes its electrical charge, it shifts to run on the fuel. Currently, retrofitting a regular hybrid with plug-in hybrid technology costs between $10,000 and $12,000. This cost is expected to decrease by about half in the near future.

The Plug-In Hybrid Coalition of the Carolinas is working to promote and educate the public about plug-in hybrid vehicles.

Plug-In Partners, a coalition of various organizations including local governments, environmental groups, businesses, and others seeks to demonstrate to automakers that a market for Flex-Fuel Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV) exists.