There are a variety of vehicles that use renewable energy. Renewable energy sources for transportation include:
Battery electric vehicles, often just called electric vehicles, have an on-board battery that charges the electric motor and moves the car.
In the future, there will be a need for vehicle-charging infrastructure for people to recharge their vehicles, particularly personal home and workplace charging.
Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles have a battery and a combustion engine. The battery is charged by plugging in the car, just as you would for an electric vehicle, and the car can then be driven using only the battery. When the battery runs flat, the regular engine starts and the vehicle uses that to get around.
Electric powertrain technologies are unlikely to be suitable for long distances, but may develop to support urban commercial use. Overhead power cables, much like those used for trolley buses could be adapted for heavy commercial vehicles – particularly those on a fixed route to and from the port.
Hybrid heavy-duty vehicles that use a battery to get moving or help acceleration, then switch to a combustion engine for cruising are under development and are very well suited to stop-start applications like garbage and delivery trucks.
Biofuels are liquid fuels that can be used in combustion engines and replace gasoline and diesel. It is important that the feedstocks used to make the biofuels are grown responsibly, or most preferably processed from what is currently considered the waste stream (eg. agricultural waste).
Sustainable biofuels can be produced from a wide variety of feedstocks such as:
Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles use a fuel cell to convert hydrogen into electricity, which then drives an electric motor. Unlike an electric vehicle or plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, the car does not have a battery; the hydrogen itself is stored in the car and converted into electricity when it’s needed.
The majority of hydrogen produced today comes from natural gas, but using renewable electricity to electrolyze water could produce clean hydrogen in the quantities needed. A move to increase hydrogen use will require new fuelling-station infrastructure, which would be similar to the gas stations of today.
The technology needed to power commercial freight and other large vehicles with hydrogen is almost identical to that for personal vehicles; it is simply larger and more powerful.
Biomethane is methane produced naturally and is a high-grade energy source. It can be used as a replacement for natural gas.
Technology such as anaerobic digestion produces biomethane from food scraps and the material left over from that process is used in the production of compost and fertilizer.
As waste diversion programs take effect and better ways to use the waste stream are implemented, biomethane production from landfills is expected to decline while anaerobic digesters will increase production volumes.