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What is Biofuel and How Does it Work in a Car?

  • Author :
  • TATA AIG Team
  • Published on :
  • 29/04/2024

As automobile companies everywhere make efforts to incorporate eco-friendliness, alternative fuels like bioethanol for cars or algae fuel for cars have emerged as promising solutions. These fuels are derived from renewable biological resources and hold the potential to reduce the carbon footprint of driving an automobile.

In response to the growing concerns over climate change and the adoption of sustainable practices, industries are investing in research to harness the benefits of these biofuels to the optimal.

What are Biofuels?

Biofuels are a class of fuels derived from biomass, which includes plant or algae material as well as animal waste. Unlike fossil fuels such as petroleum, coal, and natural gas, biofuels are considered renewable energy sources because their feedstock materials can be replenished easily. This characteristic makes biofuels increasingly attractive as alternatives to conventional fossil fuels.

Biofuels contain a range of substances that are derived from biomass. Some traditional biofuels, like wood, can be burned directly to produce heat, which in turn can be used for electricity generation.

However, liquid biofuels are of particular interest lately due to the existing infrastructure for transportation. The two most common liquid biofuels are ethanol and biodiesel.

Types of Biofuels


Ethanol, also known as ethyl alcohol, is produced by fermenting starch or sugar. It is often blended with gasoline to produce gasohol in the US, where it is made using corn. In Brazil on the other hand it is made using sugarcane and used as 100 % ethanol fuel or in gasoline blends.


Biodiesel is primarily made from oily plants like soybeans or oil palm, as well as waste cooking fat. It is used in diesel engines and is typically blended with petroleum diesel fuel. Biodiesel has gained recognition in Europe as a great alternative to traditional diesel fuel.

Algae Biofuel:

Algae and cyanobacteria show promising potential as sources of biodiesel. Some species contain high lipid content which can be converted to fuel.

How Do Biofuels Work in a Car Engine?

Biofuels like bioethanol petrol, offer a sustainable alternative to traditional petroleum-based fuels. This reduces the reliance on oil for transportation. Ethanol of the most popular biofuel options is blended with gasoline to create E10 or 15 which can be used in standard combustion engines. When compressed and ignited, ethanol burns similarly to regular gasoline which allows the engine to function efficiently.

Similarly, biodiesel made from vegetable oil or waste cooking grease, provides another eco-friendly fuel option. When blended with regular diesel, it forms B5 or B12 mixtures, which act similarly to traditional petroleum diesel when used in an engine.

The fast vapourisation and combustion process of biodiesel ensure smooth engine operation, which maintains performance while reducing environmental impact.

Both ethanol blends and biodiesel mixes mimic the burning characteristics of gasoline or diesel which make them fantastic eco-friendly substitutes for traditional fuel options.

Which Indian Vehicles Use Biodiesel?

In India, the adoption of biodiesel in vehicles is primarily seen in government vehicles and public transport. Many Indian cities have mandated the use of biodiesel blends in public transit buses as a measure to reduce carbon emissions and combat the ever-increasing air pollution.

For instance, Delhi requires public transit buses to run on B5 biodiesel blends, while in cities like Mangalore, Bangalore, and Kochi, there has been implementation of B5 or even B10 blends derived from coconut oil.

Moreover, municipal garbage trucks in cities like Delhi and Pune operate on biodiesel blends which are sourced from jatropha plants. This has been done with the aim of mitigating the release of methane from organic waste in landfills. Additionally, the Indian Railways also conduct trials of 5% biodiesel blends for long-distance trains, which are derived from cooking oil.

Advantages of Biofuels

Reduce Greenhouse Gases

Bio petrol emits fewer greenhouse gases than fossil fuels when burned which contributes to the efforts of combating global warming. The use of ethanol for biofuel cars can reduce emissions by up to 65% while biodiesel from cooking oil can reduce emissions by 87%.


Unlike finite fossil fuels, bioethanol petrol is derived from renewable sources like plants and algae which can be replanted and grown repeatedly.

Positive Economic Impact

Biofuel production stimulates economic growth by creating jobs and boosting local economies. The industry’s expansion adds to the GDP which benefits the working population. Moreover, bio petrol price is a lot more affordable as compared to traditional fuels. This makes it more easily accessible.

Reduce Foreign Oil Dependence

Utilising domestically produced bio petrol, we can reduce our reliance on imported fossil fuel and mitigate the fluctuations of oil prices.

Future of Biofuels

Technological Advancements

Ongoing investments from both government and private sectors are driving the development of research for biofuel technology. This includes the exploration of new feedstock to create bio petrol using crop residues, municipal waste, and even algae oils.

Innovations like acetone-butanol-ethanol (ABE) fermentation and catalytic conversion show the potential bioethanol petrol has when it comes to balancing carbon emissions.

Government Policies

Governments worldwide, including India, are actively supporting the adoption of bioethanol for cars and other vehicles. Through the implementation of various policies and regulations, the government has managed to set mandatory blending targets and offers tax exemptions for the use of renewable diesel or ethanol mix fuels.

This helps implement higher emission standards and works better towards protecting the environment.

Automotive Trends

Automotive companies are focusing on developing powertrains that are capable of utilising multiple fuels, including bio petrol, electrification, and hybridisation. This strategy helps cover against fluctuations in fuel prices and supply uncertainties.

Importance of Tata AIG Car Insurance

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To conclude, biofuels like algae fuel for cars are a significant step towards the implementation of more eco-friendly practices in the automotive industry. It is an essential development for the safety of our environment.

As automotive companies strive to innovate and develop alternatives for renewable energy sources, the potential of biofuels keeps flourishing.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there disadvantages to using plant-based fuels?

Yes, plant-based fuels can contribute to deforestation, especially if they are fuels like palm biodiesel. Moreover, bio petrol may easily freeze in cold weather, causing fuel line issues.

Can bioethanol petrol be used for all vehicles?

Not all vehicles are compatible with bioethanol petrol, some might require engine modifications.

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