A new report indicates the success of alternative fuel deployment depends heavily on matching the right fuel with the right location

When it comes to the world of alternative fuel deployment, it’s a common mantra that no single technology will be the “silver bullet” for reducing the consumption of conventional fuels like diesel and gasoline. Instead, a combination of all viable fuels and vehicle technologies is necessary to improve the nation’s energy security and reduce environmental impacts.

A new report released by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the Geography of Existing and Potential Alternative Fuel Markets in the United States, examines the potential to successfully deploy the five most commonly used alternative fuels: electricity (used by plug-in electric vehicles), biodiesel (blends of B20 and higher), E85 ethanol, compressed natural gas (CNG), and propane.

To evaluate existing and potential regional market strength, the report’s authors studied six market indicators (in order of importance) for each state: the availability of existing fueling infrastructure, the current density of the area’s light-duty alternative vehicles (AFVs), gasoline and diesel prices, the availability of state incentives for AFVs, and the proximity to domestic resources such as biodiesel and ethanol. The report’s conclusion found that while markets varied among states, every state showed promise for being able to deploy at least one alternative fuel.

Other major report findings were:

  • California, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Washington appear to have the best potential markets for alternative fuels in general
  • Wyoming showed the least potential due in part to its low population density, with weak markets for all alternative fuels except for CNG, although even that market remains sporadic
  • Of all the fuels, CNG is the most promising fuel for the greatest number of states. This fuel showed the most potential largely because freight traffic provides likely demand for many far-reaching corridor markets and because the sources of CNG are so widespread geographically.
  • National Renewable Energy Laboratory
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