By Nogie Demirjian, 16, Granada Hills High School
Print This Post
Nogie Demirjian says he's not trading in his Camaro any time soon for an alternative-fuel vehicle.

If you’re like me, you want to drive the fastest, baddest, and coolest car on the road. You want aggressive design, power and style. And you’re bound to be disappointed by environmentally friendly vehicles, the dorky nerds of the car world.

These cars will get you to the places you want to go but you won’t have much fun along the way. As one teen put it: "Those cars suck!" said Don Hoang, 16, a Granada Hills High student. He likes fast imports, so he would never consider buying one of these. But he said he likes the idea that a "green" car is available—and maybe in the future they will have more power. "It’s the thought that counts," he said.

It is too bad because we all are tired of looking at the blanket of smog that lays across our city—70 percent of the smog comes from tailpipes, according to the Los Angeles Times.

I would never give up my Camaro for a slow car with no acceleration, but it was kind of interesting to learn more about the technologies that manufacturers are experimenting with. There are six alternatives to gas and diesel vehicles under development; compressed natural gas, hydrogen, electric, alcohol, solar energy, and hybrids, which combine gas or diesel technology with electric power, according to Motor Trend magazine and the Alternative Fuels Data Center. So far the hybrids seem the most viable because they cost less and aren’t as dependent on recharging stations and hard-to-find fuels.

Don’t expect to see a hybrid Ferrari any time soon. At the same time, there’s no doubt the hybrid vehicle is something different. "It’s an innovative, progressive vehicle compared to others," said David A. Kolbe, vice president of Kolbe Honda of Reseda, which sells the hybrid Honda Insight.

The South Coast Air Quality Management district hosts a Web site at where you can look up places to refuel alternative fuels.
The Alternative Fuels Data Center, of the U.S. Department of Energy, lists detailed information on these fuels, along with a list of all the manufacturers which are developing vehicles that use them. Following is a list of some of the power sources under development:


Toyota Prius

The most reasonable alternative available so far. A hybrid combines two energy sources: a small gasoline or diesel engine and a small lithium battery pack that recharges when the car moves. This is better than the straight electrics because it doesn’t need to be recharged and gets as much as 70 miles per gallon, enabling long commutes without fear. This alternative also releases less dirty emissions then the current fossil fuels.
Both Honda and Toyota have come out with vehicles running on hybrid power sources.

Everything is perfect about this alternative except its lead-acid batteries are huge expensive to replace, and limit the driver to a smaller number of miles before the car has to be recharged. This is why this alternative has been thrown to the side until a solution to this battery problem can be found. GM has already released the EV1; it can do 0-60 in 7 seconds and can go for 80 miles before needing recharging. The government has also agreed to make recharging stations available for these cars.

Compressed Natural Gas

Compressed natural gas, or CNG, is pressurized methane that is drawn from underground reserves. Compared to gasoline, it costs less, and is readily available. It can be used with the same engines that cars use today with only minor adjustments. The drawback: you need a heavy steel tank so you can maintain the high pressure, and keep this highly combustible, odorless gas from escaping. Some of today’s MTA buses can carry the large steel tank without a problem. Car companies are working on how to make this available for passenger cars.


Pure ethanol or blending of gasoline and denatured ethanol can be used with the gasoline engines of today. This alternative fuel releases fewer carbon molecules than gasoline, but it gets less mileage per gallon than you get normally with gasoline, and is more expensive than gas. Some future cars hitting the markets next year and the year after will be equipped with this ethanol-burning capability.

Another alternative is a blend of methanol and gasoline. Methanol comes from natural gas, coal or wood. It’s cheaper than gas, but gets lower mileage and is hard to find at gas stations. Ford has made this technology available through its "Flex Fuel Vehicle" (FFV), and can be found on the Taurus sedan.


The difficulty of storing solar power and carrying large solar panels has made solar-powered cars impractical, so far.

Combined with oxygen in a combustion engine, this gas can create an abundant amount of horsepower. This gas makes up 90 percent of the universe and is odorless, colorless, tasteless, and nonpoisonous. The problem is that like compressed natural gas, it requires a special heavy tank. BMW is one of the manufacturers working on developing a hydrogen-powered vehicle.